How I Finally Turned My World Upside Down

By , SparkPeople Blogger
I'm studying to be a yoga teacher. On Day One of training, my palms were sweating, my heart was racing and my mind was running. I would soon have to face my biggest fear in yoga: Inversions.

I had spent the past two years avoiding headstands, arm balances and handstands. "Im not strong enough," I told myself at first. Soon the strength was there, but the fear remained. In headstand, my hands wrapped around my head and my elbows tucked in, I felt claustrophobic. Add a teacher who just wanted to help me, and I felt even more cramped down there.

I once accidentally kicked a teacher who tried to help me get into headstand. I wasn't ready, and I told her that, but she wanted to help. I felt surrounded by limbs, the room was closing in, and I wanted down. I didn't try again for over a year--at teacher training.

I have some control issues. I like life to happen on my terms. While that doesn't always work, with inversions, it did.

On that first night in teacher training, I watched women kick up for the very first time. Some of these students were brand-new to yoga, and they didn't have that fear. No one had ever told them they couldn't do yoga, that they couldn't do a headstand, so they never took it to heart. I told myself I couldn't, so I didn't.

That night, I set a schedule. I would master headstand (against the wall at first) by the end of training.

I practiced in class that night, and the next two days. I felt frustrated, but I kept with it. The fear was slowly subsiding.

A week later, I visited my mom. Her floors are carpeted--much safer than my apartment, with its circa 1860s hardwood floors and exposed brick walls. I rolled out my mat and started kicking up. I flailed a few times and kicked up. Immediately, I came down.

I was shocked but determined. A few more tries and I was able to stay up for five breaths!

I returned to teacher training the next weekend and didn't share my secret. When it came time for headstand, I moved my mat to the wall, took a deep breath and went for it. I did a headstand. As I rested in child's pose immediately after, I couldn't help but grin from ear to ear.

Fueled by my success with headstand, I decided to set goals for the other inversions and arm balances we frequently do in class: forearm balance, handstand, crane pose and tripod headstand.

I gave myself two weeks to learn forearm stand and a month for handstand and crane pose. Forearm stand came easily enough, and now I'm working on doing it--and headstand--away from the wall.

Handstand continued to elude me. I'm tall, I'm bottom heavy, I don't have enough momentum. The excuses flowed like rain each time we headed to the wall for handstands.

One night, I felt so frustrated, I actually started crying slightly. Why was this so difficult for me?

I squeezed my eyes shut and stayed in child's pose as I tried to fight the vitriol spewing from my mind. "Everyone else can do this. You're the only one. The only one. It's not that hard. What's WRONG with you?"

I was done for the night, but I kept trying. Slowly but surely I was getting there, but I never got more than one leg up against the wall at a time.

It was May 1, and I had not achieved handstand. I was about to give up.

Tired, having spent a restless night and a day eating poorly and feeling worse, I wanted to skip my workout. Just one inversion, I said. It would only take five minutes and would give me some much needed energy.
With mere hours before my deadline would pass, I headed to the mats here in the office. I kicked up a few times. On my third try, I made contact with the wall--with both feet. And I stayed there for five breaths. I felt great!

This time as rested in child's pose, a smile overcame my face.

What changed? I started from standing, I spread my hands wider, and I used more momentum. But most importantly, I stopped beating myself up.

Whether your goal is to do a handstand, run a mile or lose 10 pounds, you have to honor and respect yourself. Beating yourself up and losing faith in your abilities is not ever going to yield results.

My new goals: Headstands away from the wall, tripod headstand (June 1) and peacock pose (July 1).

I love the feeling of being upside down. When I've had a rough day or need an energy boost, a quick headstand--or handstand--is just what I crave. When life feels like it's moving too fast and I need to feel centered, turning the world on its head makes all seem right and clear.

Looking back, I'm glad that I had to learn inversions slowly. Each one revealed itself to me as a gift, and I was able to bask in the bliss of achievement. If that fear hadn't been present, I never would have appreciated the skill, beauty and strength of each pose.

Is there a goal that you've had trouble reaching? Do you beat yourself up? How do you fight your inner critic? For fellow yogis, which pose is/was the hardest for you?

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Way to keep at it! Report
Congratulations, Stepf! Kudos on your accomplishment! Report
I am too afraid to even take a class...too scary to do that in public. Maybe....someday. Report
Inversions are my favorite asanas. I've found they are really effective for my circulatory system. Some of them were a bit scary at first, especially since balance is not my strong suit. I started with shoulder stands and tripods which are a bit easier not only to do but to recover from if your momentum gets away from you. Report
I find that the negative is so much stronger than the positive, and you get it from outside sources almost continually, so why fall prey to that when you "self-talk". I am CONSTANTLY "arguing" with myself, especially when running. (I've actually blogged my arguments!) but in the end you have to look and REMIND yourself at your accomplishments, no matter how "small" or "insignificant" because those tiny accomplishments build into the final goal.
I use to do gymnastics when I was 8 years old. Well, you know how that goes - you get older, lose interest, then one day - I was 35 and weighed signifcantly more than 204 - I decided to show my kids that I could do a cartwheel. HEY those were EASY ... when I was 8! Needless to say, overweight and out of shape, I pulled my back out.
This year, after working out and getting to and STAYING at 140# for a year, I decided to try the cartwheel "just for fun" and my daughter video taped it for me.
At 45 years old, I did a cartwheel. Then I did another and another. I was ELATED.
You overcome and persevere. Be strong, determined and you will succeed!
(My cartwheel is on youtube:
) Report
Thanks for the kind words, everyone!

JKACZOR19: Like you, I was intimidated by all the people doing inversions in yoga class. I thought I'd never be able to do them. I still feel overwhelmed sometimes--especially in some of the more advanced classes. But in time, all things get easier. Report
Congratulations. this really hit home with me. I'm working on my goal to run a mile without stopping and just had one of the conversations you are talking about durring my owrkout on Saturday. I spent all of my 60 second sprints telling myself I can't do, I'm not built to run and I'm never going to succeed. As I was reading this piece I can't help but wonder if those thoughts actually take more energy and physically make achieveing my goal more difficult. Report
Wow! What a great story. I think we all have something we fear, and facing that fear whether big or small can be so liberating. Report
Congrats! Way to work past your fears. I have a bad shoulder that would never allow and hand stand. Report
I started doing yoga about 3 weeks ago, and I am in awe of thosedoing the arm balance poses and the headstands. This is a great story about setting goals to confront fears. Report
I love yoga! The inversions are my favorites. I cannot do the crane, my arms aren't strong enough. I can do a headstand against the wall but not away from the wall--of couse I don't try that one much. The peacock??? OMG! I can't imagine! Wow!

It is wonderful how you have grown by working through your fears! congratulations! Report
What a great story. Congratulations on your hard work and dreams. Report
I have many goals I sometimes struggle to reach. They come in fits and starts for me....I have a stretch where lots gets done and I can barely wait to tackle the next thing with great vigor and accomplishment-driven energy....then I seem to reach a point of needing a vacation from it all..and slide downhill.

I liken it being an incredible chef....7 days a week you create wonderful masterpeices of food and nutrition for those around you....then at about 4 weeks time, you NEED a need to not cook for a need to be something else for awhile....

I go from getting lots done outside (cause I beat myself up over WHY isnt this SIMPLE THIGN DONE YET) to getting lots done inside to the next area of life...I bounce between them all, and tend to beat myself over the unattended areas at any given moment (the old "this is so would only take minute....just do it already...")

I guess it is like a sense you needed to find your inner life balance to accomplish great personal feats...and I am struggleling to find my outer life balance to accomplish great family feats.....

You are ahead of VALUE YOURSELF and are doing things for YOU already.....I am still stuck on the "everyone but me" of these days I too will JUMP and hopefully not land on my I relish the thought of turning the world upside down if even for just a few minutes......

Na-ma-stay....or however you spell it....that is my Yoga-abilities......Na-ma-stay! Report
Fantastic story!! Report
Dropping back into Urdhva Dhanurasana from Tadasana. Working on it now & having a blast but the anxiety is there. Learning to work through it. Report
I am glad this blog was posted. It is definitely time for me to resume my practice. I struggle with candlestick pose, but, I really enjoy the sense of calm that is experienced after...

I remember about a decade ago when I first began practicing yoga. Triangle pose was sooo painful. Now, it is a rest pose, second only to child.

Namaste Report
Thank you! I started my yoga practice a few months ago and am terrified of crane/crow. I want to try it, but I'm really afraid. I'm afraid of headstands, too, but am determined to eventually do headstands and the crane pose. Report
I do fine with head stands and hand stands (well, I can't do them perfectly but fear doesn't hold me back), but I find the forearm balance pretty scary! I think it's supposed to be an easier one, but it makes me feel like if I drop out of the pose I will crush my neck. I love yoga and I know the smiley feeling you're talking about! I was so excited when I did a full wheel (something I hadn't done since I was in gymnastics as a little kid) and then when I did a headstand up against the wall for the first time. Report
I love yoga, but have never tried inversions. Not afraid, just never thought about trying (that's for "advanced" people). Maybe I will now. Thanks for the inspriation. Report
Awesome... something I'd like to do but never tried due to balance problems but I can still do a head stand... have to prove it to my grandchildren every year or so. But wow if I could do a handstand next time. Thanks for sharing. Report
Gosh I would be there right next to you, I don't do yoga well at all. I do try some in the water with my instructor for shallow water and it's hard to do the tree. Report
Way to go...never been able to do a headstand without the wall...used to stay for minutes at a time in a handstand against the wall....could hold for a minute or two alone, but that was thirty years ago!!! Not sure I'd be brave enough to try today. Report
Congratulations! I've never been one for headstands and the like, but maybe someday...

Ann Report
I am trying so many new things right now; my whole lifestyle is new; so I just tell myself to feel the fear; and do it anyway! It works for me. Report
Congrats! I also have a fear of inversions, but you've definitely motivated to give them another try...and to sign up for another yoga class! Report
I don't particularly beat myself up about anything but I do know that it is very hard to believe in one self especially when losing weight - like when you feel healthy and see yourself at your goal weight but you are like 20 lbs from their and the mirrors don't reflect what is in your mind; it's a very hard thing to combine the two. As a quote I added to my sparkpage - don't only look at your goal because it may seem insurmountable but take each day as it comes. Best of luck with your yoga Stepfanie! Report
stor"y" -- oops........ I also meant to add :: inversions were always easy for me, but I can understand your fear. I was a gymnast throughout my childhood and my hardest obstacle was always standing back handsprings. Someday I will do one with this new life I'm giving myself! Someday!! Report
You are such an inspiration! This store spoke to me on so many levels and I'd like to thank you for putting it out here for us all to see. Congrats on overcoming gravity!! Report
Love this! We need a new mantra "Don't Beat Yourself Up..." Wonderful story! Report
Congratulations on all of your hard work so far! Report
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