Headstand update

I’ve been working fairly intensively on my headstand. For me intensively means I do it at least once every practice when I feel slightly up for it, let’s not go mad here. Also the idea of doing lots of one asanas at the expense of other asanas is just not on! I have to do equal amounts of all the different types of poses. Frequently I’ll lie in savasana and realise that I haven’t done a twist, or an adequate amount of forward bends and it worries me. Is this normal?

Anyway my point is I’ve been working on the headstand. Last week I briefly swore off it forever and ever. I was having a bad day and I decided that I’ll never do it and I’ll never try again either in a pool of tears on my yoga mat. All I needed was the lower lip pout and a stamp of my foot to make my tantrum complete. This swearing off headstand lasted all of 24 hours because I’m a bit of a methodical asana practitioner, my strange mode of thinking seems to be my asana practice is only as strong as its weakest asana. Don’t ask me, I don’t know, I don’t control my thoughts I just say them. Maybe I’ll explore this idea in another post. So headstand is the weakest link at the moment for me, as in I can’t do it!

I’ve learnt more about getting into it recently. There was a very useful post about handstand on yoganatomy¬†which explains the importance of the pelvis in headstand. So once you’re balancing in the little curled up fetal position that is the beginning of a headstand you can either straighten your legs or you can straighten your spine by tilting your pelvis. I’ve been mainly thinking in terms of legs so the past couple of times after reading this article I tried concentrating on my pelvis and spine. It’s magical! The legs just follow, it just unfurls beautifully like a fern frond greeting the sun.

Unfortunately my thinking when practicing headstand is quite short term. I think: hips over spine, legs into chest, hips over spine, legs over chest and if the miraculous balance is achieved I don’t know what to do! I haven’t planned that far! Do I try to establish balancing in this position to familiarise myself with it thus making it easier to recreate next time? Or do I try to straighten my legs/unfurl my spine? Usually I try a bit of both which is fairly successful but then I panic because I could fall over! I could die! I could bang my head and break my neck and I could die! Somewhere along the line I forget the wall is inches away. And no one has died from doing a headstand. Perhaps at this point I should remember that my mum always told me I’d ‘break my neck’ if I so much as dangled upside down over the end of my bed. Thanks mum!

Even worse that me panicking the first time I manage to balance, after I’ve balanced once I cannot do it again! It’s like there’s a quota of balances per practice. Done one? That’s your lot I’m afraid, try next time. My fingertips are sweaty (I’m the most un-sweaty person ever, my fingertips not my palms sweat) I’m jittery and ready for more but I flail and I kick and I gasp until I think “that’s it, I’m done for today.” I seem to lose the presence of mind that allows me to align myself right after one go. My mind goes away, to where? Who knows.

This fear, is it going to get better? I hope so. I did feel something similar in wheel pose for the first year or so I practiced it. Even though I never hurt myself I worried I would and I liked the pose but I panicked everytime it came to do it. I would hate being forced to hold it or repeat it. I’d do it but I didn’t feel comfortable for months. This kinda makes me feel better about the headstand but also it makes me think… a year?!?!

Patience please!


Getting over my Fear of Falling

Had an exhausting Spring Bank Holiday tidying and cleaning. The momentous undertaking that is sorting through all my possessions is definitely worthy for a post in itself. I found myself mainly dusting my art books, and then deciding to give half of them away. Gone are the days when I keep things ‘just in case’. ‘Just in case’ they come in handy, ‘just in case’ they inspire my art in some way, ‘just in case’ I suddenly decide to completely change my style of painting and my personality… etc. The other category is ‘ought to’, as in I really ought to read that art book on symbolism or self-portraits because… why? Enough!

I still have energy enough to post though, my topic today is about my fear of falling (as you might have guessed). I’ve had a low grade fear of falling all my life. I will never jump off walls, or steps, or into swimming pools, or over a skipping rope and I never have done. I have always been terrified of having to do an emergency exit from a plane: how do you jump and land on your bum?? I cannot imagine overriding my senses to do that. Also, most strangely of all, I will never run down stairs because I am scared I’ll trip. I’ll run up stairs but never ever down.

This is not something that rules my life but it is something I am constantly aware of. It slows me down at the very least, walking down stairs all the time! Personally I would call this an exaggerated rational fear rather than an irrational fear. After all, falling over is horrible! I hate it. It is so disorientating and makes me feel so fragile and vulnerable. Even tripping over my feet is enough to bring me into a cold sweat sometimes.

I was the least sporty child imaginable growing up. I was the one who would watch when the other kids would do handstands or forward rolls, or cartwheels or, as the more gymnastic kids did (or as I liked to think of them: the show-offs), headstands. I was too scared, and not very able. Besides, I liked watching, all that going upside down and hurting yourself was too dangerous. I was safer where I was, bored, but safer.

Which is why it is strange that right now I find myself wanting to do headstands, handstands and all the rest of it. I was nervous starting out. Unbelievably 2 years ago I’d never even done a shoulderstand. I was doing a yoga therapy session and the teacher (my first teacher) taught me the shouderstand along with the gold nugget of wisdom that if I woke up sad I could go into shoulderstand for 5 minutes and that would cure me for the day. Alas it is not true. The first few shoulderstands I was terrified! I wobbled all over the place and I feared for my neck. The teacher told me she’d teach me headstand. I told her I was scared of falling and to this she told me that I had to conquer my fear of falling because that was my problem. This was why I was depressed, because I was scared. Hm. I took this with a cynical pinch of salt. I have always been scared of falling, I had only been depressed at that point for about 3 years.

In yoga you fall a lot, especially while learning arm balances. This doesn’t put me off anymore. I suppose part of it is just familiarity and the knowledge I’m not going to hurt myself badly. Also I think it’s the novelty of learning something new about myself, of changing life-long thought patterns. I’m not that scared little girl anymore watching everyone else having fun: I’m having the fun! And arm balances are so much fun (I’ll come back to you about the headstands and handstands, still learning to love these) I’m on the way to becoming fearless.

And you know how I know this? Last week after coming out of my yoga class I RAN down the 2 flights of stairs when I was leaving. I didn’t think of tripping once. That’s progress!