I often have life revelations while practicing yoga. I’ve been working around the clock these days and haven’t had time to attend an official class in weeks, so I’ve started doing sun salutations and short workouts on my own. One of the workouts called for headstand pose as its final step. I immediately dismissed it because I’ve never actually tried one, so my brain thought, “I don’t do headstands. I’ll just skip that part.”
Of course, I’ve always wanted to do a headstand. In class, the idea that I might fail has kept me from trying despite my teachers’ collective encouragement and the success of my fellow yogis. I was stuck, stuck in a rut, stuck in “shoulder stand.” I never felt good about not doing a headstand, and I always thought it would happen one day. Eventually, I thought. That day was never the present — it was always off in the distant, obscure future. This thinking lead me to automatically accept where I was, which some would say is compassionate, but I wanted to move forward. My “compassion” was preventing me from progressing. This warm, fuzzy feeling of safety was keeping me in my comfort zone.
Perhaps it’s because I get silly ideas when I’m sleep deprived, or because I’m excited by the new changes in other areas of my life, but I had an amazingly clear realization that almost made me giddy: if I don’t ever try headstand (Sirsha-asana in Sanskrit), I’ll never move past shoulder stand (Salamba Sarvangasana in Sanskrit). Ever.
This realization was horrifying; I had to do something about it. So just like that, I got my mat, kicked up against a wall (just in case) and nailed it on my second try. It was so simple and empowering. I’ve been headstanding every day since and have already started to ween myself off the wall.
The positive energy that came from achieving headstand has spread to other areas of my life. It’s allowed me to adopt a fearlessness I once possessed but lost somewhere along the line. It feels so, so good to have it back and it was much easier to harness than I anticipated! In little ways, life reminds you not to take yourself too seriously: what’s the fun in that? If you don’t get “it” on your first try (whatever “it” may be), so what? If people see that, who cares? They are probably so preoccupied with their own problems that they won’t notice your failure.
And for the record, I wouldn’t even consider that a failure. It’s only a failure when you’ve stopped trying, because eventually you *will* get it, whatever “it” is. You will! It may not come the way you wanted or when you wanted, but if you put your mind to it, you can do anything.
Photography by Aaron Kellner