I have noticed in my own practice, and even more as I am now a teacher, there are certain poses that the ego likes to claim as mile markers, that we often find ourselves using to compare to other yogis or even just to judge ourselves. First, it really does no good to compare your self to anyone else. Your practice is just that. It's YOURS. Your body is differently shaped. You have unique talents as well as unique challenges. In addition, self-doubt and fear inhibits our practice even before we attempt that challenging pose or dare to go deeper into a familiar one.
My recent work on pincha mayurasna has prompted me to write a bit more deeply about inversions, because it can be so easy to get hung up on this class of poses and frustrate yourself when results don't happen immediately.
My very first time attempting headstand was terrifying. I had just started a session of yoga classes with a new teacher, and he talked us through it. I couldn't do it, and came up to the instructor after class, pretty much freaking out and scared I wasn't "good enough" to keep up with the class. He was confident that I was at the right level and encouraged me to stick with it.... and I did! I took a very long time for me to be able to get there, but I did eventually get the point where I could get up into headstand and hold it (and on a good day, I'm even graceful about it!)
Inversions can be very intimidating and really, more often it's the mental rather than the physical that is the challenge. So I present to you...
- I am strong. If you're not sure about this, see your instructor. Most likely the answer will be yes, you are strong enough to hold your own weight in some way. We often doubt our own strength and it's a wonderful thing to realized your own power!
- I am light. This one is trickier. A fun thing to practice is to hang out in downward dog and kick your legs up, one at a time or together. Imagine your hips filling with helium and floating up rather than kicking with your feet. When your upside down, imagine a string pulling your tailbone towards the sky.
- It's OK to fall down. I have been known to do the following things when I wipe out: say "OOPS!", scream, crack up laughing. If I'm at home, I also occasionally build a fort of pillows and blankets to make me feel better about falling over because I'll at least have something soft to land on.
As for me, pincha mayurasana is coming along and I can kick up pretty consistently. I'm still working to find my balance in the pose, and I'm having a blast playing with this one!