In this blog I thought I would share some things I have learnt from practicing headstands. Not my favourite posture, it would have to be said, and certainly not one that I find easy, but as I tell my students, in yoga the biggest lessons come from the postures we find tricky, and I knew this had a lot to teach me.
Last week I fell out of headstand in an awkward, unceremonious and frankly painful way. I did, though, learn plenty from the experience – not least that arnica and lavender oil are very effective on bruising! I’m not suggesting that you should go off and practice headstands, but maybe you can learn something about your nemisis yoga pose from my experience. I would also like to add, that I always prepare well before practicing, and I know that I can do headstands because I’ve done them in classes. This is a strong posture, not for everyone, certainly not without much preparation, and something we do not teach in a general Dru Yoga class.
I have a certain amount of fear and resistance to the headstand, and this came through in my practice. I have been holding myself rigid, not breathing into the pose and not trusting my body, so my first lesson has been recognising how my fear was stopping me being yogic in my practice. Exploring this, I have realised that the thing I was most afraid of was falling. Ok, well I’ve done that, it hurt, but not nearly as badly as I feared. I had sufficient flexibility and strength to sort of “roll” out of the fall and limit the injury. Now I know that I can trust my body.
The rigidity in my body that the fear was creating was also detrimental to my practice. I often say in classes that the hardest thing about yoga is not trying, and I was definitely trying too hard! I was so desperate not to fall that I was not flowing with the posture, I certainly wasn’t using my breath and there wasn’t any softness – how could I possibly expect anything from this pose? In all yoga there has to be balance – strength and flexibility, power and gentleness, and the breath is the bridge between these qualities. Lesson number 2.
After I fell, I laid crumpled on the floor for a little while – assessing the damage before moving! As I took my awareness to each part of my body I breathed light into the area, softening the muscles. This was so beneficial. It allowed my to settle, observe and release what I could. Once I’d finished I slowly rolled over onto my side and came into sitting. I then went straight into some re-alignment movements which were very soothing, moving slowly and mindfully. In my experience, it’s quick movements that come without awareness that cause the problems. Throughout the day I kept moving, massaged the sore bits and took arnica. I didn’t ache nearly as much as I thought I would the following day.
I continued with my yoga practice, working slowly with awareness. I also still went for my PT session with Kim Tomlin at The Movement Hub. Kim was great at helping me to release bits of my body that had blocked up and by the end of her session I was moving like me again. This reaffirmed to me that movement is pretty much always helpful. Had I stayed still, I just know that I would still be moving about like a robotic version of Mrs Overalls 🙂
For now, headstands are off my practice list, but they will be back, this time though I’ll be more aware and confident. In the meantime I’m going back to some basics, studying headstands to see what I’ve missed, and keeping my feet firmly on the floor!