Some things come really easy, to others. And then the same things come really hard, to us.
We struggle and go down the spiral of self-doubt and despair. We question ourselves and make conclusions about our abilities or our circumstances. Eventually we might give up and forever live with a tiny drilling thought – that, perhaps, we simply didn’t try hard enough.
It was July 2015 when I firmly decided to flip my world upside-down. This phrase may sound metaphorical, but for me it had a literal meaning.
I’d been practicing yoga for 3 years. Every yoga class I took brought a lot of joy to me, except for that very particular moment, at the end of the class. At that moment, everyone was supposed to lock their hands, squeeze their heads in between and elegantly lift their legs up, to then freeze in a headstand, perfectly stretched like a guitar string. And everyone did, even the sheer beginners did, but I couldn’t. I took extra assistance from teachers, caused delays in the class, fell down, screamed, took help of the wall, but with every move I got convinced more and more that it was not the right thing for me to do.
The constant feeling of embarrassment only deepened that belief, and one day I found a good reason enough not to ever attempt a headstand again. I remembered that when I was a kid one doctor said that my neck wasn’t quite straight, and for me it explained everything. I convinced myself that a headstand was not just something I wasn’t able to do, but it was something almost life-threatening for me.
I kept practicing without even attempting a headstand again until a big change in my life was about to happen. I was on the verge of changing my lifestyle, moving places and starting my own company, and I was often strangled by doubts and fears. I felt that to cope with it, I had to manage to do something that I was deeply afraid of, something that I’d struggled with and never completed. It was the time when I decided that I HAD to learn a headstand.
From the time I took this decision, it took me 1 year of daily (!) practice to be able to do a headstand. It made me face my fears and weaknesses every single morning, and taught me how to go through it. What I learned along the way had very little to do with physical exercises and abilities alone:
1. We convince ourselves in what feels comfortable. When I couldn’t do a headstand I was desperate to find a scientifically proven confirmation, that I was not even supposed to attempt something like that. I read all possible articles on why a headstand is dangerous and what side-effects it can cause, and I had a real sigh of relief, when I remembered about my childhood “neck problem”. The truth was – there was no problem, but it was truly comforting for me to think otherwise.
2. Fear is one of the biggest blocks in life. A fear can stop us from doing anything, without us even realizing that the fear is there. We can be afraid of getting hurt, of failing, of being judged, of not being accepted, of being left alone – the list of fears is infinite and they can be hidden in the deepest layers of our subconscious.
3. We clinch to our fears and delusions with great pleasure and eagerness. It is much easier to find an excuse in the lack of our abilities or unlucky environment and circumstances. Pushing yourself towards something that seems undoable takes effort and dedication. Unless life leaves us no choice we are very unlikely to face our fears willingly.
4. Build the core foundation. For everything. Injuries are not uncommon among yoga practitioners, and a headstand is no exception. Many of those injuries could be avoided if we didn’t rush into a pose before being ready for it. When I tried to jump into a headstand directly, it hurt everything – my shoulders, my spine, my neck – because I simply wasn’t strong enough. Only when I spent considerable amount of time on strengthening the right muscles, was I able to do a headstand safely and with ease. In whatever you are working on in life – make sure you have a strong foundation.
5. Big changes do not happen overnight – even if it seems so. Internet is flooded with stories of overnight success. What we don’t see is years, and sometimes even generations of work and struggle behind it. Any significant progress takes time and continuous practice – be patient and don’t loose your motivation before time.
6. Some things will come easier to you than to the others, some will come harder, and it is OK. I always saw how easily a headstand was done even by beginners, and I still couldn’t do it after months of practice. It made me feel constantly unable. What I forgot were complicated twists and backbends which never required an effort from my side, while other students struggled with them. We have different strong and weak sides, and it doesn’t mean that we are better or worse.
7. When we are stuck inside ourselves, it can completely detach us from the realistic understanding of our own abilities. I was 100% confident that I wasn’t able to do a headstand, ever. I thought that I couldn’t straighten my legs, and I kept doing my regular headstand next to a wall, even though I didn’t even touch the wall anymore. Only when my husband took a picture of me secretly, I realized: I was 1 meter away from the wall and my body was perfectly straight. But every time I knew that there was no wall in the vicinity, I wouldn’t be able to lift my legs up, because I thought I couldn’t.
8. Daily practice can go a long way. Keep trying. Even if it sounds all too familiar – just keep trying. You might not notice any progress for a very long time, but trust me, you are moving ahead.
I expected that a headstand would either twist my neck, or straighten my spine. The last thing I expected was that I would face my fears, and would keep facing them for weeks, and even months to come. Every single morning I started with my yoga practice and an attempt to do a headstand. At the beginning it was a source of total distress and despair. But one year of constant practice later it became a daily reminder of what we can achieve, if we let go our fears and replace them with belief and dedication.