Headstand: it’s not you, it’s me. By Lexie Williamson
Yoga wisdom dictates that if you dislike a pose you should do it more. Face your fears and practice, practice, practice until ‘dislike’ becomes ‘like.’ Well, I’ve always had a difficult relationship with headstand.
I know full well sirsasana has a fearsome reputation among yogis as ‘king of asanas’ but it’s always been a struggle for me. So I shuffle it straight to the back of my mental card pack of poses. My husband, who would definitely not describe himself as a yogi (‘there’s already enough yoga in our house’) can flip right into it with the ease of an acrobat. Yes, he crashes down 30 seconds later and nearly breaks his toes, but the point is, he’s ticked the ‘headstand’ box. All around me, students are popping up into sirsasana. Many (show offs) do it freestanding – no wall required.
What would B.K.S Iyengar say? I flick through the wonderful Light on Yoga to the section on sirsasana and read: ‘The best way to overcome fear is to face with equanimity the situation of which one is afraid.’ I hear you B.K.S and I’ve tried. I’ve attended ‘Anyone Can Do A Headstand In 5 Easy Steps’ workshops in a calm state of mind to be pushed, poked and prodded. But sweat and grunt as I might, stay stubbornly grounded. Picture a frog whose back legs are jumping but whose forearms are glued to the ground – its just not dignified.
If I do achieve lift-off it feels like I’m drilling a hole in the floor with my head. But this, apparently, might just be a question of anatomy. Bless Paul Grilley and his Anatomy of Yoga video. He explains how limited forearm flexion (which I have) can make headstand a challenge. So there you go sirsasana, its not you, it’s me.
I know, I know, where there’s a will, there’s a way. It’s just not yogic to give up on a pose so easily. Or is it? Maybe I should stop struggling, take a leaf out my 79-year-old father-in-law’s book and enjoy the ones I like.
He does yoga every Tuesday night and is often prone to linger in his favourite pose – crow – long after the rest of the class has moved on. ‘Dad, we’re not doing that one anymore,’ whispers my sister-in-law. ‘I know,’ he whispers back. ‘But I’m really good at this one.’
Lexie Williamson is a yoga teacher and health and fitness writer (pulseyoga.co.uk)