Headstands: A Lesson for Daily Life


For the past 6 or more months, I’ve been having a love-hate relationship with the gym. I’ve written about this regularly, so I won’t recap here – but my bugbear was about teaching group fitness classes. What this fear has morphed into, however, has been an excuse not to go to the gym at all and become rather lazy.

I’ll fess up. By most people’s standards, doing yoga 5 or 6 days a week, doing 40 min of running three times per week and 2 Pump classes at home, along with walking or cycling to work every day are not lazy. This is what I’ve been doing since the beginning of the year.

But in my mind, subtracting Pump classes at the gym along with the Body Attack classes I was teaching (plus those I was participating in), from my usual fitness routine is by my standards, very lazy. Lazy, fat slob, actually.

At present, I still cannot force myself to return to the gym where I was teaching, even as a paying participant. I feel distinctly uncomfortable even at the thought of going in there. I know there are many people wondering where I am – I see them in the street everyday. There’s many participants who I really like. But I cannot go in there. I am not comfortable and I am not inspired. I’d lost my mojo with this place and with keeping fit, it seemed.

Which, until several weeks ago, left me feeling confused and lost on the inside.

You see, going to the gym has been part of my life since 1987. I have been instructing since 1989. Also, I love Les Mills classes, I love the social atmosphere (remember, I live in a country town where people are really friendly), singing along to the music, and relaxing in class when I’m not up the front teaching.

In the town where I live, there are three gyms. Two offer Les Mills programs and one is a freestyle place that I’ve never set foot in yet. I had previously been at the smaller, privately run Les Mills centre, and during my darkest days, had become upset when I was used and abused whilst filling for both yoga and Body Balance. I left (two and a half years ago) and never went back. My daughter kept teaching there, until she too was hurt by someone and then also joined me at the larger centre.

To be honest, I always felt better and more at home at this smaller place. I had attended this centre from the time I had first arrived in town (about 5 years). Also, things had never gone smoothly at the larger centre when I moved over from the word go (comments that fitness coordinators said to me about me: it’s always a struggle, Amanda, isn’t it? And more recently: that’s blackmail­ still hurt and hold sway over me).

However, to go back to the smaller centre -even as a participant- was scary. It filled me with paralysing dread. It took me three weeks of telling myself: ‘I’m going to go‘ to even get up the courage to put my gym gear on and consider heading out the door.

Finally, I made up my mind to go. I could not bear staying away from group fitness classes anymore than I could stay away from yoga. I begged Gary to come with me to Pump one Sunday morning about 3 weeks ago. He ummed and ahhed about it.

When the time came on Sunday morning, he said no (Gary doesn’t feel comfortable in group fitness classes, which is why we have Pump weights home here). I am not going to force him out of his comfort zone.

I then told myself: well, there’s nothing for it. I’m going to face the fear and do it anyway.

I reached inside and turned fear into excitement. Mentally, I reminded myself of the first time I abseiled down an 83 metre high (equivalent to 23 storeys) cliff. I really wanted to abseil down such an enormous cliff, but I was so scared – mortally terrified- looking from the cliff top to the valley floor below. Shaking, I did the abseil and then completed it another 6 times that afternoon. Then I did an overhang abseil down 81 metres…

However, it was also a lesson that I’ve learned even more deeply from yoga. From conquering my fear of headstands and shoulderstands. It took me 5 years of Iyengar yoga before I went anywhere near a headstand because I was frightened of hurting my neck and becoming a quadriplegic. Now, I love headstands (I still haven’t found the same enthusiasm for shoulderstands, although I have no problems doing them).

So on that Sunday morning three weeks ago when Gary said no, he wouldn’t hold my hand, I let go and faced my fear with curiousity and tenderness (I was still bloody scared!). A kind of curious excitement arose within (still scared!).

I walked into the small gym where I had once been a regular and an instructor, and did a Pump class. I was made to feel so welcome, I stayed for the Body Balance class afterwards as well.

Friday, I did something even more remarkable. It’s been two years since I’ve done a Body Step class (a number of reasons are behind this). I had just gone right ‘off’ Step – lost my mojo.

But conquering my fear and going to back to the smaller gym has returned my group fitness mojo. I did Step and I loved it. I rediscovered the utter joy of losing myself in music and movement. It was poetry and bliss – just like yoga.

Anyway, this is the lesson of the headstand. Feeling the fear, examining the fear with curiousity and tenderness, and going into the moment. Breathing into the now. Coming to stillness inside and moving into radical acceptance and letting go.

Whatever happens next, happens.


4 thoughts on “Headstands: A Lesson for Daily Life

  1. Yeah, um… if you’re lazy, then I’m probably clinically dead by your definition!! Its just yoga as many times a week as I can manage (sometimes only twice a week – I know, shame on me!) and cycling, mostly as my main form of transport everywhere. And some walking.

    However, I’m glad you managed to get yourself to return to your group fitness classes.

    Fear is impressive for its ability to warp the landscape and make us think all sorts of things are impossible. That’s its defence actually. Its only when you get out there, despite the fear, that fear actually starts to go away.

  2. @Svasti … I’m sure it’s me who’s crazy and kinda abnormal in my exercising habits! Cycling and yoga (and I’m sure you walk as well) equal really good exercise. I’m just a freak!

    …but a happy freak!

    @Linda, thanks heaps. And yes, I wish I could study with Paul Grilley properly. It is all in the bones… I’ve watched his Yoga Anatomy DVD over and over and I never cease to come away with something new. Working with him in person must be awe-inspiring.

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