Finally, after an hour of inverting, hopping in prep exercises, core work, almost smashing my wall thermostat with a stray heel, I found that sweet float:
Handstand. Unsupported, away from the wall, just... free-floating, upside down. Hashtag yogagoals. If only someone had seen that magic moment other than my dog...
Flash forward, and my naturopath/chiropractor has me clutching a small bolster while he tries to put a rib back into place while telling me it's not actually that uncommon. Um, what?!
It didn't go back in. Yet. And I've been forced to rest my shoulders -- something that's not exactly easy for a yoga teacher who is always in motion. So here I am. Writing. Reading. Resting. And pondering.
* * *
The modern depiction of yoga seems to tell a story of always seeking something deeper, more "advanced"- a bigger backbend, a wilder variation, toes to the back of the head or BUST. I've heard many an aspiring yogi tell me they'll NEVER be like those yogis they see on the internet...
Ah yes, you probably won't- and I'm glad, I want to tell them.
That isn't the focus I would wish for your practice.
That is the byproduct of the Westernization of yoga: the goal of getting somewhere. To focus on achieving a particular pose or flexibility level locks us squarely into the thinking mind that we so desperately want to escape. Or at least, runs counter to the teachings of the ancient (OG) yogis:
The purpose of yoga? Patanjali says: yoga chitta vritti nirodhah, or “yoga is the stilling of the fluctuations of the mind”.
Nothing about six-pack abs. Nothing about full splits. Just... stilling the fluctuations of the mind.
And originally, asana was practiced to prepare the body to sit comfortably in meditation to do just that. Through tapas, the discipline of a regular practice devoted to a strong, healthy body both physically and energetically, any maladies or imbalances can be cleansed to create a pure vessel for meeting consciousness.
In plain speak, the intention of yoga is to prepare the body to completely still the incessant chatter of the thinking mind. Sounds nice, doesn't it?
The strength and flexibility that come with consistent practice are pleasant byproducts. And popping three ribs out does not a pleasant meditation make. Lemme tell ya.
So don't get me wrong: for some, the tapas of working handstands and deep postures helps to discipline the mind.
The focus required to slowly and intentionally cultivate the strength and flexibility can be incredibly potent as a meditation when applied with intention. If that's the yoga medicine you need, handstand away my friend- and let it strengthen your courage, resolve, and dedication to finding clarity in yourself.
For me? The medicine is in slow, patient strength. Gently sinking into a sticky hip with an old injury. Practicing breathing through that wobbly transition from Warrior 3 to Half Moon Pose. My tendency can be to rush, to always want to get to the next thing, to want a more aggressive practice. But that's not the medicine my body and mind need. Cultivating focus, stability in my joints and muscles, and slowing the F down. That's my jam.
Over the next three weeks, I'll be breaking down how to choose the Yoga practice that's for you -- including meditation.
So stay tuned. Or pop your email address in that box down below, and I'll make sure you're in the loop!