I was doing yoga for nearly 5 years before I had the courage to even attempt a headstand. I still remember my first wobbly headstand against the library wall at home clearly. I purposely did it at home, because I didn’t want people in the yoga class to see me fail. I recall my fear at doing it, my surprise when I was able to do it and the confidence it gave me afterwards.
For me, it’s a bit of a cliche that Sirsasana is called ‘the King’ of yoga poses … the pose that you absolutely must do if you’re anywhere near serious about yoga. Go into a yoga class and people look at you with something less than respect if you can’t pop a headstand in the middle of the room. Personally, I think Ardho Mukha Svanasna is the ‘king’ of poses, and -I’ll be honest here- it irks me that those same people can’t hold adho mukha svanasana and just be with it for 2 minutes to save their lives. But then, why do we need ‘king’ or ‘queen’ poses anyway? Which is a whole other post… so I’ll leave it there.
What I am interested in sharing is realisation that I had whilst figuring out my journey through Sirsasana, and whether I could apply the same principles to Adho Mukha Vrksasana (AMV/handstand). (I’m currently playing with AMV in my home practice).
Time to Back Track….
As a child I was told not to do headstands, handstands or anything that involved putting pressure on my neck because I might end up in a wheelchair. Or worse.
Now, I’m sure my mother told me this because she was worried that I might hurt myself. As both my brother and I are adopted, from an early age, I detected a level of protection on behalf of my parents which other children did not experience, and -unfortunately- was at odds with my independent personality. In the end, I just ‘did stuff’ and Mum never knew.
However, that early ‘tape’ about headstands, neck injuries, paraplegia and death was recorded by my brain. It’s still playing, although I’ve taught my brain that, as I have a healthy neck and no other medical contraindications, I am allowed to do headstands.
Fast Forward: 2010, My Bathroom
After I did my first wobbly Sirsasana against the wall at home, and then got up enough courage to go public with it, I spent a lot of time watching, talking and learning. There was something that I learned about Sirsasana which came back to me the other day as I lifted up into AMV -against the wall in my bathroom (was subsequently busted by my son, who asked what on Earth I was doing!). The secret to headstand wasn’t just the pressing down of the forearms into against the floor, it was THE CORE!
In AMV, it’s all about the core. A strong switched on set of belly muscles meant that I was able to find an amazing sense of ease and balance very quickly, rather than just kicking up and hoping for the best.
Washing in the Rain
Later, as I was running from house to laundry in the middle of the biggest wet (translation: most rain) we’ve had in 8 years, something else occurred to me. Having a strong core is the key to everything. Not just on the yoga mat, but off the yoga mat as well. I’m talking about the metaphoric core here, the metaphoric central foundations, fundamentals, heart, basics of almost anything I do. I can run, because I can walk, I can walk, because I could crawl, I can crawl because I could sit … and so on, right back down to breathing.
So the lesson for me is: don’t be in a hurry to progress (not that I often am these days, when you pass 30, you learn patience), and spend a lot of time strengthening the core, no matter what it is that I’m trying to achieve. Go back to the core and love it very much. Admire it from time to time and just be with it, rather than lifting up into yet another headstand.
In loving the core, the basics, you find the strength and freedom to fly.