Handstands: ego in your face

A note on Handstands:

I saw an interview where the musician Moby said that his ultimate goal in yoga was to never try to be really good at yoga. This is a really important point, because it is so easy to give into the urge of trying to force perfection out of every endeavor in life. I have been tirelessly kicking up into handstands, trying to balance in a perfect pose with two legs up. The result is that I, without fail, flip over into a backbend every time. This is the most obvious display of ego I can imagine! My training tells me that if I go through the proper steps: really focusing on my inner gaze (drishti), strengthening my core, and pressing up without momentum, I can find some hovering time. But the second I say to myself “I am going to do the perfect pose right now,” I flip over. Forcing myself to take the long road shows me that the real problem is not that I can’t do a handstand right now. It is that my mind is so hell-bent on perfection that I prevent the natural progress created through dedicated practice. I actually keep myself from getting better.

I have gone through the same process with learning German. I moved to Germany in September, and quickly learned that I needed to learn German in order to survive here. So I stuck myself into a German class for foreigners, listened to the radio, watched movies, read books, and beat myself up wondering why I still couldn’t magically understand everything everyone said, and why I made so many pathetic mistakes all the time. Then, in April I traveled back to the US for 3 weeks, and I focused my attention on a yoga teacher training. I still spoke some German with my boyfriend on Skype, but it was minimal. And, most importantly, I wasn’t stressing about it. When I got back to Germany, lo and behold, my German was considerably better! I had taken time to let it sink in. I had realized that my progress did not define me as a person. And, I was reminded that it is a thrilling challenge to learn a new way to communicate with people. I still make a million mistakes. Literally, a million. But, slowly and surely, it gets better.

When we forget that we’re supposed to be succeeding all the time, we can see that the steps we took along the way made us stronger and more available to enjoy the process. I like to eliminate some of the pressure by being grateful for my healthy body, trying to be generous and grateful for the people in my life, and remembering to not take myself so seriously.

And, about the handstands, being upside down gives you a new perspective and a positive outlook. Plus, it is amazingly fun. So give it a try, but not if you’re pregnant!

(first posted on 15 May, 2014)

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