my friend Johnna in headstand
On September 12th, I decided to challenge myself to turn my world upside down, every day for 100 consecutive days. Here’s my progress so far…the first 16 days…
Days 1-4: successful! Turned my world upside both at the wall and away from the wall.
Day 5: took a break
Day 6: wonderful headstand where my teacher helped me correct some misalignments (twisted body, collapsed side body, and position of feet)
Day 7: took a break
Days 8 & 9: success! Headstand in class, invigorating and relaxing all at the same time.
Day 10: Headstand at home after teaching, felt relaxed.
Day 11: took a break
Day 12: headstand at home
Day 13: took a break
Day 14: Headstand as I prepared for class.
Day 15: allergies acting up, so no inverting.
Day 16: Headstand before class… felt really invigorating, but a little unsteady. I wasn’t completely relaxed.
So, I haven’t been as consistent as I had hoped I would be, but I’m still doing it. With a pose like headstand, you really only want to get into the pose when you know you are ready for it and when you know you are in a frame of mind and body that you will protect your neck. If I’m too tired, not feeling well, or sometimes, when I’m by myself, I prefer not doing this pose. It’s scares me to think that if I move wrong I could injure my neck. That being said, when I’ve come into headstand in these last two or so weeks, I have felt incredible. The craziest thing about headstand and any inversion is that when you are properly aligned the asana doesn’t feel like work, you have the perfect balance of sthira and sukha (effort and ease) and feel light as a feather.
Sthira-sukham asanam (the practice of observing effort and ease) is one of Patanjali’s yoga sutras. (Sutra II.46) As with all of the yoga sutras, there are many translations of the Sanskrit. As translated in Living Your Yoga (p. 23), “the posture should be steady and comfortable”. As translated in The Secret Power of Yoga: A Woman’s Guide to the Heart and Spirit of the Yoga Sutras, Kindle edition (location 3547-3557), “the natural comfort and joy of our being is expressed when the body becomes steady (asana)”. Both of these translations, plus my very simplistic interpretation all focus on one thing, finding a balance. You push yourself so as to challenge yourself, but not so far that you it takes incredible effort to hold. This has been our theme of the month at the studio – finding that place where we can find effortlessness.
I love thinking of this in my inversions. In a headstand, when I find that perfect balance, I feel like as a feather (as if the asana is easy), and I am not pushing myself extremely hard to stay inverted, yet because I am not pushing myself, I almost feel as if the pose is too easy, and I may doubt myself and release sooner than I need to. It took me a long while to get to this point of being able to find the balance in my headstand and I know that when I am ready to begin growing into handstand and forearmstand, I expect that it will be a slow journey there too. This is reflective of life off the mat too, finding the balance between trying to hard to make things happen and sitting back and waiting for something to happen.
On my mat, every day is different. I strive to achieve the balance between effort and ease in each asana, while accepting that how deep I can go may be different than the day before or the day after. I continue to learn to laugh when I fall out of a pose and to not forget to breathe when I am unable to come into a pose. I am learning not to be frustrated and to take each experience on the mat and use it to grow my practice. Off the mat, I sometimes struggle applying effort and ease. I continue to seek to learn from my experiences and not allow myself to get frustrated when things happen that don’t go as planned or the way i thought they should or how i want them to. This is an evolving process and as I have continued my practice on the mat, I have found that it is easier and easier to do this off the mat. As I continue this journey to know myself, to be present, and to give up control, I sometimes find the balance between effort and ease, and with that comes a contentment that is indescribable.
Have you turned your world upside down lately? When was the last time you found the perfect balance between effort and ease? How did it feel?