“We gain strength, and courage, and confidence by each experience in which we really stop to look fear in the face… we must do that which we think we cannot.” -Eleanor Roosevelt
Last week, while working with a private client, I delivered the great news that she was ready to start working on an inversion other than shoulderstand. You’d think I told her we were about to jump out of a plane! Her body language completely changed, and suddenly she had a headache- so we couldn’t possibly start that day. Clearly the thought of turning upside-down scared the crap out of her; but we needed to dig a bit deeper before throwing the idea out completely. I asked her what it was exactly that got her knickers in a twist about flipping upside-down.
Her answer? Pretty much the same as every other student who thinks about doing it for the first time since 3rd grade: she was afraid she would fall.
“Fall where?” I asked, although the answer was obvious.
“Down,” she answered.
“You mean here, on the floor,” I countered while pointing to the mat, which would be 6 inches from her head in handstand.
“Yes,” she said quietly.
“I won’t let you fall, “ I assured her as I stood up to prepare to spot her.
She was still hesitant, then challenged me back by asking what pose made my stomach turn. I told her I didn’t have one- In the most humble way, I explained to her that I am very confident in my strength and body awareness when it comes to yoga postures. However, I knew that wasn’t a fair answer, as she was looking to make me understand where she was at mentally.
“Okay- the thought of wearing shorts in public makes me want to run and hide,” I admitted sheepishly, realizing how stupid that sounded even though it’s totally true.
She burst out laughing, then proclaimed that wearing shorts in public didn’t count.
Au contraire, mon frère!
Did I really need to go into the reasons why I don’t wear shorts, and why the very thought of them makes me scrunch up my face like the thought of wearing neon lace from my 80’s Halloween costume?
But first a disclaimer: I am NOT saying that I don’t like my legs in a way that I think there is something wrong with my body…. after years of practicing yoga, I have finally come to a place where I am happy that it’s strong and healthy. Some places might be bigger, or rounder than I’d like- but I’m just not that interested in trying to be perfect anymore…. The leg issue isn’t about my legs being FAT, they just aren’t something I feel the need to show off…
My legs are short, my legs are Irish-y white–like, SEE THRU white. I have this weird skin discoloration thing on my right leg from when I was little–barely noticeable to you, unless you are uncomfortably close to my thigh for some reason, but it still bothers me. My legs are very muscular which makes them appear quite stocky, and it’s hard to find shorts the right length so that they don’t cut me off in the wrong place, or aren’t too tight, causing a “sausage casing” effect above my knee. I’m just NOT A FAN of ‘em.
But I am a yoga teacher, and take the “service” part of my practice very seriously. So here’s what I agreed to do; I would wear shorts 3 times that week, and the next week she would try a handstand.
I even went so far as to buy a pair of really cute shorts from JCrew that have little skulls embroidered on them. I put them on the next day, wanting so very badly to like them, and then my 8-year-old son came in my room pointing at my legs asking “what are those?” I was perplexed about what he was referring to…. His reply- “you don’t wear shorts!” Hmmm.. Even my kids know I avoid them like McDonalds. However, I put on MY BIG GIRL PANTS, wore them all day-and for two others that week.; well, not those same shorts, two other pairs I dug out from wardrobe purgatory.
I was happy to report back the next week that I held up my end of the bargain, and it was her turn to face her fear; which she willingly did as I carefully explained each step before finally assisting her to stand on her own two hands.
Her reaction this time? That face full of fear turned into one of child-like excitement, as if she had just done a handstand for the first time as a toddler.
What’s the first thing she asks me when I show up now? Which inversion we are practicing that day.
What can help you face a fear? Visualize it in meditation if you have a practice, or just lying in your bed at night.
It’s okay to come into yoga class and not want to do a handstand after only taking 2 classes- but if it’s been two years, you need to take a look at what’s holding you back from moving forward…. usually the only answer is staring back at you in mirror…..
In love and handstands,
Want to learn the #1 yoga mistake you might be making that has nothing to do with nailing a handstand? Find out HERE