When a Handstand isn’t a Handstand

I was listening to a podcast recently and the host and her guest are talking about the importance of a regular yoga practice. And I’m listening, nodding along like, “YAS! YAS! YAS!” And then the arrived at their point: We don’t practice yoga to get stronger/better/more flexible, we practice yoga to rewire our brains.

This notion isn’t foreign to me. In fact, it’s something that I talk about quite frequently. But the way that it hit me in that particular moment nearly knocked me on my ass.

I’m a very risk averse person. I always wear my seatbelt. I don’t like jay-walking. I do a lot of research before I go on vacation. I like predictability and control. But these past few months have thrown me into the deep end, and I find myself feeling lost and overwhelmed too much for comfort.

So I’ve had to ask myself: why do I feel so unprepared for unpredictability? And this truth has been a hard pill to swallow. I’ve spent so long playing it safe that I find it hard to function in a reality where my feet don’t touch the bottom of the pool.

And where this shows up for me in my practice is inverting. And before you get all “well, technically downward facing dog is an inversion…” I’ll clarify: I hate any pose where you are upside down relying only on your hands/head/forearms to keep you from breaking every bone in your body.

In the rational part of my brain I know the likelihood of that happening is pretty slim given the knowledge that I have of my body, the years that I’ve given to my practice, the countless inversion escape routes and the strength that I possess. But none of that matters, my brain is convinced that inversions are just not going to happen for me. And like…I’m really ok with that.

The “accepting that some things aren’t meant for you” part of my practice has always come really easy to me. I mean, who wants to be constantly faced with things that they aren’t good at? I prefer to live in the parts of my practice that make me feel empowered and strong and capable and happy and free. But this is the yoga equivalent of living in a “good vibes only” universe: unrealistic, unsustainable, and inevitably limiting.


We see these parts of ourselves reflected in our practice over and over and over again. Whether you’re like me and inversions make you nervy. Or you’re the person who can’t skip a chaturanga because you’re “not a quitter.” Or you hide in the back corner of the room hoping that no one notices you. Or you can’t stand savasana because you feel like its a waste of time. Or you find it hard to make it to class because you think that you’re not good enough.

So my revelation is this: When you skip those postures scare/frustrate/annoy you, you’re also skipping that bit of rewiring and you’re missing out on what those poses have to teach you. You have to let things challenge you, push your buttons, rub you the wrong way.