I love inversions. I always have. Although I had done versions of Headstand, Handstand, and Shoulderstand prior to developing a steady yoga practice, Crow Pose was the first inversion/arm balance I devoted ample time to studying in my body. Once I got Crow I was hooked and wanted to keep exploring. I'll never forget the first time I held Pincha Mayurasana, Forearm Balance, in the middle of the room during a yoga practice. I spent countless hours working against the wall and asking my teachers to spot me.
As a student I appreciate the determination and discipline it takes to stick with a challenging posture even if that means falling on your face a few times. As a yoga teacher I love seeing the glow on a student's face when they walk out of a practice room saying, "I've never been able to do that before!" Inversions and hand balances allow for yoga students to face their fears and conquer something they never thought possible. It's not just about nailing Parsva Bakasana, it's about setting aside all expectations, focusing on one specific thing, and trying something that's really hard. Not to mention it's totally empowering to hold all of your body weight on your hands for a few breaths.
Although I have a sweet spot for inversions and hand balances, I sometimes drift away from teaching them. Throughout the years I have noticed students, myself included, get so wrapped up in perfecting things like Handstand or One-Legged Crow and become less interested with finessing more familiar postures like Warrior II. Although Warrior II might seem like a very basic posture, it too, just like Handstand, deserves focus, dedication, and practice. It's an easy scapegoat, but I think social media has added to the pressure on yoga students to nail fancy inverted postures. Hollowback, anyone?? I follow a lot of people on Instagram. I can guarantee over half of them are yogis. Out of that half I'm sure a large portion of them posted a picture of themselves in Handstand just over the weekend. This isn't a criticism. It's simply an observation.
Here I stand torn as a yoga teacher. Do I shy away from teaching the big inversions because I want students to appreciate the subtleties of the more basic postures? Or do I empower my students with more information around inversions so that they learn safe and sustainable alignment? I'm leaning toward the latter. Perhaps inversions can be the gateway to more focus even in the basic postures. Reflecting on the first time I held Handstand by myself in the middle of a yoga room, I have never been so focused and clearheaded in my life. With time I have been able to translate that focus to Warrior II, Downdog, and even a (not super consistent) seated meditation practice. It's more than nailing the Handstand so that I can post a pretty picture on social media. It's about calming my busy mind, turning off the chatter, and giving myself the chance to be absolutely present.
With that, yoga friends, let's break this stuff down. I'm leading a 90 minute inversion and hand balance workshop this Saturday, April 1 at 1:45pm at CorePower Yoga-Northeast Minneapolis. I'd love for you to join me! We'll focus quite a bit on Handstand and various ways to approach the posture. We'll also focus on how Handstand can be seen in many basic yoga postures. As you can see, Handstand is pretty much Urdhva Hastasana, Upward Salute, turned upside down. If you're interested, shoot me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Let's focus in on the subtleties and feel empowered together!