Being Upside Down

upsidedown

Hey! Did you hear that? That faint sound of crickets chirping? Turns out that blogging about something that you find uncomfortable is rather difficult. Figures, right? Not that being adventurous is embarrassing or hard to describe but when it doesn’t go that smoothly, finding the motivation to address it publicly is the real challenge.

With that said, it has not been going particularly well. Sure, there have been glimmers of goodness and pay-off, but frequently it feels a lot like I’ve been beating my head against a wall.

Turns out that when I take on a brand new venture, I take one of two approaches:

1. Run at it kicking and screaming with headstrong, overly confidant ambition.

OR

2. Hide.

This is one the times when learning about yourself is not fun. Nothing at all like taking a buzzfeed quiz.

So what has been my working remedy for all of this?

At the risk of sounding T O T A L L Y crunchy, yoga.

A few months ago, I set this goal for myself: to get comfortable with getting into inversions, such as a headstand.

Initially this goal truly scared me. Being upside down while not harnessed to something has always felt like a death wish. I was more than a little afraid of getting injured. You know how they always say ‘what’s the worst that can happen?’ I would always think to myself in this case ‘well, death.’

So what changed my mind? I’d been going to yoga classes once a week for just over a year and my yoga instructor always puts inversion practice into our sessions and before I would only ever half try (if that) to get into these poses because I was scared. In January, while on the high of my new ‘adventurous year’ goal, I made the ballsy decision to actually TRY inversions during class. Applying real effort and real concentration. I asked my instructor for a few clarification tips on how my body should feel when I’m upside down and after that I practiced. Sometimes at home too.

It took time. It took patience. I had to slow down a lot, take breaks and keep trying. Every little improvement felt HUGE. I had a vision of how it would feel and what it would look like when I finally got to where I wanted to be which helped me stay focused. Sure enough, one month ago I got into my fully extended headstand, twice. When I got into the pose for the first time I was so surprised that I fell to the floor on my side, during class. Also, I didn’t get hurt. It just felt like sweet sweet victory. When I left class I was so freaking proud that I gave myself a high-5 in the mirror. Since then I’ve been enjoying being upside down and have recently made an effort to do a couple headstands daily.

headstand

I am by no means a world class headstand-er now (my legs don’t always fully extend and when they do it’s not for all that long) but to see that I’ve come this far with something that paralyzed me with fear has been inspiring. I hope to use the mental tools I fostered in this transformation during other adventurous (scary) moments in the future.

These tools are:

Ask better questions:
Make sure you get the information you need to get started and when you hit a wall. There are always going to be people who are willing to help. Swallow your pride and just ask. Questions should be productive and specific to be able to obtain your goals. When you break questions down into smaller ones, that’s where you find the good stuff. It’s not ‘how do I get into a headstand?’ it’s ‘how should I transfer my weight to my shoulders and core?” Know what I mean?

TAKE THINGS SLOWLY:
This is the sucky part for those who are less than patience. Having something not come together easily can feel like a failure and then all of the cheerful motivation you went in with is no where to be found. Celebrating the little victories along the way is where you gain the strength to keep going. For example, when I was able to lift my feet off the ground and suspend in the air it felt like I did the whole headstand, even though I was only kind of elevated and only for one second.

Listen:
Whether it’s listening to your body or another person’s opinion, keep the ears wide open. Listening will provide you with an internal map to follow when you don’t know what to do. The hardest part is listening when you don’t want to slow down or change course, but it’s vital in long term success. This applies to both physical and mental challenges equally. Listening will give you as much knowledge as you are willing to let in.

I’ve heard from many people that yoga has changed their life and I can truly believe it, especially now. My practice has just begun and it as taught me so much more than I would have guessed. These lessons have begun to bleed over into every part of my life and I’m excited to keep going, come good days or days where nothing makes sense.

After all, it’s a journey, not a race.



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