The Humility of Headstands, Pt. 2

My headstand prep flow is now on YouTube! This flow activates your shoulders, core, and butt to help you practice this advanced inversion. I wrote and recorded this flow after a friend asked my advice for getting into a headstand.

Headstands are still a pose that drum up nerves and dread. Sure, I’ve hit the pose a dozen or so times, and flying up after a flow class is really fun. But as I mention in the video, inversions aren’t just a test of physical strength. There is a moment during a headstand when you align your hips over your shoulders and feel really light. This is a make-or-break moment. Without a wall behind me, I can’t always guarantee that I will get there, even after two or three tries (or two or three friends around to cheer me on.)

We recorded this flow earlier than I anticipated, but I continued to reassure myself that the video would look “legit,” …meaning I would have a full headstand in the video. I sheepishly tried to position my mat next to a wall (and when we moved the shoot outdoors, next to a tree) in order to guarantee a headstand for the shot. And you may have already guessed (or saw while watching the video.) I didn’t get there while we were shooting. I didn’t reach the full expression of the pose while we were shooting after the flow either. (Okay, I did, but the sun had already set, and my camera had pooped out.)

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You would be pooped out too, if you had to film a lot of Navasana.

After my first failed attempts to hit a headstand, I was extremely disappointed in myself. How could I teach someone else to do a headstand if I couldn’t get there on demand? What was I doing wrong? Would I ever get to the point in my practice where I could do a headstand?

As I moved on through the recording and through the flow, a favorite nugget of yoga wisdom crawled its way into my consciousness: let go of what happened or didn’t happen during the flow. Sure, I didn’t hit a headstand a minute ago, but in the present moment, I wasn’t trying to get into a headstand. I was cooling my body down – while still recording the flow. In the present moment, I had to be present for the video. After all, what was the whole point of the video…to prove that I could do a headstand? No. I wanted to help others as they navigated the world of inversions. Getting upset for not being able to hit a pose is not going to help anyone. 

I don’t want to share or teach my yoga perfect. I want to share my yoga practice. If I want to be an authentic and accessible teacher, I have to share an authentic practice. Sometimes “practice” consists of falling on your face trying to transition out of a crow pose. Sometimes practice is hitting your first plow. In between every “milestone” are dozens of classes and flows where you just go to practice. (And by the way, milestones aren’t just hitting a new inversion; milestones could include making contact between two parts of your body, or simply discovering something new about your body and the space that it inhabits.)

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Sometimes you need an Upward Facing Dog, sometimes you need a Baby Cobra. No flow or vinyasa is any better or worse; what’s important is serving your body.

The reality is that I could have spent hours and hours to make it appear that I flew up into a headstand with the 30 minute flow that I gave you. But let’s be honest. I’m not expecting anyone who hasn’t tried inversions before to soar up into a headstand just because they watched my flow. That’s ridiculous. I guarantee nothing. I’m not a Pinterest pin that advertising “30 days to splits” or “lose 8 inches in 8 days.” I get so upset at posts and pins and clickbait articles that guarantee reaching goals that aren’t physically, monetarily, or mentally possible for everyone reading. Each human experience is different. We are all navigating a different reality that presents limits and possibilities that aren’t always available to others. So why should we pretend that any diet, flow, or routine is guaranteed to work for anyone?

The most that I can do is offer my experiences with inversions and offer tools to help navigate the body and how it’s used during practice. So let’s be real here. Let’s get rid of expectations, of goals, of “perfect poses” and Instagram-worthy photos. Let’s focus on the present moment, whatever it brings. Let’s just practice.

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