Lessons From My Yoga Mat

I've always been afraid to be upside down, and the only thing I can think to attribute that to is when I was young, my mom used to get nervous whenever I attempted anything "risky" (as most parents do). I remember her saying "YOU'LL BREAK YOUR NECK!!" or something to that extent when I had tried similar shenanigans, so I had learned to not put my body in compromising or risky positions. I was also always told to "BE CAREFUL!"

Now that I've been practicing yoga consistently for about 3 years (I did have a kid's yoga VHS tape when I was about 7 and used to watch my grandfather's Rodney Yee tapes on the reg), I am excited to announce that I've begun getting over this fear! Now I have to note that this whole thing only happened within the last couple weeks where I became more adventurous. I'm sure that it was a combination of things that made me want to try, including my friends' awesome headstand photos on Facebook and some positive yogi peer pressure that enticed me to "fly" up there into a headstand. 

So yesterday, May 17th, I came home after one of my favorite classes of the week at my yoga studio, Yoga Flow. I didn't try the pose in class - I was pretty beat after a strenuous vinyasa flow class - but when I came back to my apartment, much to my boyfriend's surmise (I was supposed to be getting a shower - oops! ;) ), I started playing around and trying to get up into a headstand. I felt my body had made all this progress and that I could totally do it, but I just needed to make some minor adjustments - pull my bellybutton up and in, engage my root lock, push out of my shoulders, squeeze my legs together, et cetera… So I didn't end up getting up  into a free-standing headstand, BUT I did get myself up against the wall which felt AMAZING!

It took me 22 years, 2 months, and 2 to get up there!

I asked Matt to come over to help me get away from the wall, which he so lovingly did. He held my feet gently for about 2 minutes and then I came down. Talk about feeling a sense of accomplishment! 

Of course, the next conversation went something like this:

Me: I just need to find my tipping point, I guess, and know what it feels like to be up there and be steady.

Matt: You know how you can do that?

Me: How?

Matt: You go too far and then you fall over! That's how you'll know.

Which naturally resulted in me getting myself into my headstand and feeling a little over-confident, flipping forward, letting out an unexpected and seemingly awkward sounding yelp, and being caught by my door frame! Luckily, the fish tank remained in tact :)

Reflecting on this experience shows me how much I've learned from my yoga practice, on and off the mat. There are always parallels, since I truly believe that how you do one thing is how you do everything. Matt couldn't have been more right - the only way you can find out whether something feels right is to "go too far" or to make a mistake. The only thing that keeps you stuck is being "careful" and not trusting yourself to know your own body's limits -- at some point, you just have to DO something. You can't just sit there and meditate about getting up to a headstand if you haven't even taken the first step of learning the proper form or getting to the first stage of the pose and committing to progressing all the way up to the full posture.

In this life, we can never know whether something is going to work out - all you can really do is trust and go for it. Nothing is guaranteed or set in stone. We only make decisions to bring us closer to greater happiness, and those choices look different for everyone. 

The worst thing that can happen is that you can fail. But failure isn't the opposite of success - it's a stepping stone TOWARD success, which oftentimes we either don't realize or don't really believe, especially in the moment of our failures. Failure is progress, just as hanging out in a dolphin pose is progress toward a headstand. If you're in dolphin pose, you don't say "I failed at a headstand" - you say "I'm in dolphin pose." Again, it's not failure, it's progress. It's a different stage. You're still on your way!

We all have our tipping points - and we should all make it a point to find out what they are. It's like the Theory of 212 Degrees. Water is just water at 211 degrees - nothing really special about it. It's stagnant. There's no action really going on there. But something happens at 212 degrees - it starts to boil. It's now an active substance, and it's changing form. It's no longer just sitting there, it's actually changing and evolving - it's becoming steam. Steam can fuel a lot of seriously meaningful processes. It can power a huge engine for a locomotive. I don't know about you, but I'd rather be the source of power than a stagnant pool of water. 

Engage your Uddiyana Bandha and soar.

Raise your vibration, raise your total life experience :)

Namaste, 

Emily