Saturday, March 7, 2009


What I notice about yoga is that, even though I can’t do a posture in the beginning, if I attempt it everyday, not pushing, but gently moving into it more and more, that within a short period of time, I am able to do it.

I’m giving my body the imprint, the suggestion of where I want it to go. Muscles nudge themselves into place, or wake up as the case may be. Sinews and ligaments stretch a little to go where they haven’t gone before, at least to that degree. And suddenly, a few weeks or months down the road, I am able to complete the posture.

I remember my fear of doing a headstand. I found a wall in the room where I did my early morning asanas, and began the modified headstand.

First, I was just creating the foundation for it, literally. Measuring off, long fingertip to opposite elbow and vice versa, and then clasping hands together like I had to do every morning on my desk in Catholic school as a kid, I created a tripod. This triangular base of planted elbows and clasped hands became the balance for the posture. As I opened my palms, moving them sideways with fingers remaining laced together, I then put the hairline edge of my forehead into that pocket. I walked my knees into my chest, small step by small step, until I was tight in a crouch, and then levered my lower body upward. Now I was in a half-headstand, with the soles of my feet planted flat against the wall above me.

Little by little, each day, I began to strengthen that foundation until I could keep my balance and extend my legs upward. The wall was there to catch me on those wobbly days, when my body lightly bounced off that backup support.

I had been told that the headstand, any inverted posture really, was the coup d’ ta of yoga, flooding the brain with nurturing blood, and draining the legs. So I was determined, despite my absolute fear of falling over backwards, that I would one day execute a full headstand in the middle of the floor.

That came on a warm early morning in August a few years later. I decided it was time. It was time to let go of the crutch the wall had become and just do it.

Slowly I measured off, long middle finger to opposite elbow, rotating my elbows out to clasp hands together, opening palms to create that pocket to hold my head along the back of my scalp. I placed my forehead on the floor, finding that exact point where skin met hairline and planted myself. I moved my body up slowly, so as not to fall, the muscles I had been working with, tightening and fluidly raising up the rest of me. I extended my legs and held the posture, keeping my elation in check so as to not wobble and over correct. I remained there, taut yet relaxed and let myself savor this long awaited moment. It was the crown jewel of my yoga life. I had worked slowly and gently to get myself there.

I unwound from the position, coming down, allowing myself time as I relaxed on hands and knees first, so that the blood in my head could drain back out slowly. I then sat up, grinning from ear to ear. My diligence had paid off. I could do it. And did do it everyday for years. A car accident many years down the road, with injuries to my cervical vertebras would put an end to those inverted postures, yet I’ll never forget the beauty of that particular pose and the success I felt at getting there.


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