The Handstand. Many students fear it, many students desire it. Oftentimes, those who fear it and those who desire it, are one and the same.
Ask a student working towards the Handstand why they actually wish to get up into the pose. The answers you get will all vary but the central theme will be the same: conquering a challenge. The Handstand is after all a challenge of balance, strength, and flexibility all at once. But the challenge is not only physical, it is also psychological.
Often the real Handstand challenge revolves around the psychological conquering of fear: the fear of falling, the fear of not being strong enough, not being flexible enough, not being balanced enough… The fear of just not being enough.
The Handstand puts you in direct contact with your view of the world and your perceived place within it. It shows you where you have become inflexible, not just within your body, but within your mind as well. It is not unusual for me to find at least one student within a class who, after being asked to try the first stages of the Handstand, tells me, “I don’t understand why, but I seem to have some irrational fear of going upside down.” The good news is that the fear is not “irrational”. What it is, is “unexamined”.
Fear is a teacher. When it appears, sit with it. Spend the time to listen and truly hear the thoughts and emotions that are associated with it. Don’t run away from it. Most certainly don’t accept that it’s irrational. The process of disarming fear begins with understanding it. Very much like untying a complex knot. A little bit of time and attention is all you really need to undo it. Follow the path of fear back to the beginning and you will see.
Once you have learned how to bring your body into the Handstand (be it against a wall or freestanding) the next lesson begins. Take a moment to relax the body and the mind. Look upon the world around you. See it as if for the first time. See it for what it is, not for what you have come to accept it to be. Change your viewpoint, literally and psychologically. Allow your world to be turned upside-down without attachment to what you thought you knew.
Take the lessons of the Handstand into your daily life, and you will learn to face life with a sense of unattached playfulness. You will see that all that limits you is within your mind. That you, and the world you live in, is always enough.
Kavita Maharaj is the owner of Red Door Yoga® and the director of The Red Door Yoga School® in Lantzville. She can be reached at 250-390-9367 or through www.reddooryoga.ca for questions.