In yoga, we tend to flip ourselves upside down.
A lot. And it’s scary.
We fold, we twist, we balance, we breathe and we invert. Standing on one’s head or hands doesn’t seem scary to a six or seven year old.
As we age, it becomes scary as hell. The first time we fall tends to be the last time we try.
I have had quite a few spills in my day as a yogi. Once, in the middle of a full class I lifted my feet over my head only to collapse into what looked somewhat like a somersault but not nearly as pretty. It took quite some time for me to attempt that again.
So, first things first, why?
Why do we do inversions? Are we yogis or acrobats?
There are actually quite a few reasons why we flip ourselves upside down in yoga.
1. Inversions reverse the blood flow and improve circulation. When you change the order of your head and heart, the heart gets a bit of a break from all the hard work it does all day. This gets oxygen and blood to the brain more easily. It’s nice to let gravity do the work so the heart can have a rest once in a while.
2. Inversions can give you an energy boost. Like I mentioned, the heart gets a break and the blood and oxygen easily get to the brain. Who needs a coffee break when you can just stand on your head, right?
3. Need some work on your balance? Getting upside down can help with that too! Headstands, handstands and forearm stands all improve balance and core strength.
4. Inverting can give you a new perspective on things. It’s not everyday that we see the world upside down. When you give it a try, it feels a bit like reliving your youth. You may come down with a new outlook on things.
5. Your confidence can get a boost from inverting. Sure, that first time is really scary and that tenth time you take a tumble can be humiliating. However, the first time your legs go up and you don’t crash is incredible.
So why all this talk about standing on my head? I will tell you.
Yesterday, I was practicing at the yoga studio before my class.
I went through my usual flow and then felt like playing a bit. I took my mat over to the wall. I floated up into handstand and held it for a few breaths before landing softly. I kicked up again, tapped my foot to the wall until I knew I had it and then stood freely again.
Back on my feet, I was a bit puzzled.
I don’t need this wall, I am just staying here for comfort.
One more time, I kicked up without touching the wall with my toes and stood freely on my hands. Seriously Lorie, move away from the wall. So I stepped away into the middle of the room. I kicked up and stayed up for maybe half a breath before quickly coming right back down.
It wasn’t that I couldn’t do it, it was that I was scared to do it without knowing the wall was right there to catch me if I needed it. A few more attempts and yet the same result. My handstands became awkward cartwheels.
The fear of being away from the wall, knowing that I wouldn’t be caught if I became unsteady, kept me from doing what I knew I could easily do.
I moved back to the wall. Sure enough, no issue standing on my hands. This started a ten minute battle in which I moved away from the wall and kicked up over and over again only to tense up and come back down as quickly as I could.
Why can I do this up against the wall but not away from it?
This obviously got me thinking a bit deeper.
Do I live my life up against the wall?
Do I ever really step away from it or do I stay in my comfort zone?
It’s easy to play it safe or to make decisions when you know that failure is not likely. But if we never fall, then we never learn to pick ourselves back up. If we never lose, then we never get to feel the true glory of winning.
Failure is a scary thing. Falling is a scary thing.
However, if we never take a chance or even try to step away from that support or safety net then how will we ever know? Maybe we won’t fall.
They say to do one thing a day that scares you.
Perhaps it’s time to start cashing in on these. I’m not talking about going sky diving or crossing off bucket list items.
I am talking about the way we approach each and every day.
How do we interact with people? Who do we interact with? How do we react and respond to adversity and challenges? When something doesn’t sit right with us, do we just brush it under the rug or do we express our feelings?
What about you? How do you live your life? Do you venture away from the wall? Do you take the step into the unknown?
Maybe it’s time we all give it a try.
I think we may be missing out on life if all we are doing is standing against the wall.
Love elephant and want to go steady?
Author: Lorie Yarro
Editor: Ashleigh Hitchcock