I was always jealous of my friends who seemed to, so naturally, be able to flip themselves over. You totally take for granted your flexibility and resilience as a kid, and your lack of fear. But the one thing that always scared me was flipping myself over. My best friend even took me to her trampoline one day to try and teach me how, and I totally freaked out and faceplanted on the trampoline. There was just no way I was getting my feet over my head on purpose.
C has been waking up early 2-3 days a week to attend a morning hatha class at our yoga studio, and comes back not only totally energized but enthusiastic about the class and the instructor, Nathan. When I saw that Nathan was subbing for the Sunday morning vinyasa class, I figured it was the best time to see what all the raving was about. I normally like to sit in the back of the class, but C encouraged me to pull my mat right up front with his, as Nathan encourages everyone to sit up front - and he echoed this sentiment by calling us all 'valedictorians' while the back of the class were the kids who 'smoked under the bleachers', totally joking of course.
I don't have a lot of upper body strength, so I'm always struggling with my down dog. I've gotten better, mostly because I've just been practicing at home, but for a while it was an ego battle - I'd get frustrated in class that I couldn't hold it and then would feel embarrassed that I'd have to get into childs pose to recover, even when every yoga instructor I've had has always said to 'honor your practice and body' and do whatever feels right. Because of this, many of my first yoga classes were emotional ones, and it drove me crazy. I'm supposed to come out of yoga feeling peaceful and energized, not pouting!
For whatever reason, this weekend was the first time where I overcame that feeling. Maybe it was the environment, maybe it was new perspective that came from heartbreaking news earlier in the week (more on that later), I don't know. What I do know is that I was feeling comfortable and not frustrated, which then lead to this:
Headstands, my friends. If you think my fear of doing a cartwheel is silly, imagine how I must feel when it comes to headstands. I have opted out of this portion of many a yoga class, simply because there is no freakin' way I'm going to put my feet up over my head. I don't have the upper body strength - I can't even hold myself up during down dog! And you want me to do what?
Because I was the only new person in this class, Nathan casually called me out by asking if anyone in the class had never done a headstand before, and I raised my hand. (I only realized afterwards that I was literally the only student he had never taught, and therefore he already knew the answer. Sneaky.) While he started going through the prep steps to a headstand, I sat on my mat immediately thinking "nope, no, no way," while figuring out a polite way to refuse this man's encouragement without seeming like a total brat. Then, to add to the
I got into my prep work and after visiting with other students, Nathan came by to check on me. "How are you feeling? Is this easy?" and I let out a tiny fit of laughter. I knew I was totally resistant to doing this, yet here I was, prepping like I was actually going to do it, which I found hilarious. He left me alone, wandered around to other students, and then finally came back. "Want to try?" he asked, and I must have said okay, because the next thing I knew, I had one leg up in his hands, then the other, and then I was inverted. When the realization hit me that I was doing something that I had been completely afraid of, I let out an instinctual, small yelp, which everyone around me laughed at. He gave me pointers (feet straight, bring in the ribs, bring in the ribs) and encouragement, and after a few seconds, let me down, and everyone applauded. I couldn't believe it. I did a headstand! What the hell?!
I came out of that class beaming with energy and excitement, feeling totally motivated to keep going. When I mentioned to C that I was so proud of myself (something that I rarely feel) he mentioned that Nathan was barely holding me, and I really was holding the majority of my weight, when I was convinced Nathan was holding me up.
It is one thing to overcome a challenge and to feel proud for doing so, but another to overcome a fear. To be able to come out on the other side and say "that wasn't so bad" or even "I want to do it again!" (which I totally do) is HUGE. C mentioned that I tend to have a mentality of "I can't do this" rather than "I can't do this today", and the difference between the two is astounding. Accepting that you can't do something at this moment changes its meaning - you no longer are telling yourself no, you're just telling yourself later, which are the small building blocks to going from "I can't do this" to "I will do this someday." Although I definitely couldn't get my feet up on the wall for a hand stand this time, Nathan's quiet "next week" response was encouragement that it will happen eventually, which is a lesson in patience and acceptance that has slowly started rooting itself in my being. How does that saying go? Courage is saying, 'I will try again tomorrow'?
Something like that.