Invert Your Fears

As a child, I was the typical kid who lived life in a constant state of terror. You know the kind of kid I’m talking about, that little kid who always refuses to try new things, climb trees, do cart-wheels, stand on their head, ride roller-coasters, play sports, etc. The kind of kid who spends most of his or her time reading a book or, gulp, watching television. (Yes, I know, I know, I spent most of my childhood watching movies and television shows, but hey, I was terrified of the world, cut me some slack…. And lets be completely honest here, I am very into stories so don’t expect me to put those books or movies down anytime soon…ahem, I digress…)
Yup, that little wimp was me. In fact, that little wimp is still me in so very many ways.
Not that I don’t enjoy a good roller-coaster now-a-days or that I can’t fathom the idea of trying something new; but, in falling in love with my yoga practice I have discovered a plethora of things that I am still terrified of.
And since the list is too long for one blog, lets begin by focusing on one big, huge terrifying element in my life.
Yup, those wonderful inversions that so many relish, adore and master in a matter of what may seem like mere seconds, make my heart race, my breath shorten, my stomach tighten, and my palms sweat quite a bit.
As a matter of fact, putting myself upside down on and off the mat has been quite the challenge for me. But I think I am beginning to see the value of it little by little.
For starters, putting yourself upside down every now and then can do miracles for your body. There have been plenty of studies and articles detailing the many wonderful things that can come from simply allowing yourself to be upside down for a while.
In the practice of yoga, we notice that, when done properly, and with awareness, people who practice inversions experience a number of benefits. People who normally can’t to relax find a great release when placing themselves upside down, some people experience relief in their backs, some others feel energized, and some others feel an increase in clarity (due to the increased blood flow to some essential glands and cells in the brain).
Inversions are believed to increase the cardiovascular, respiratory, endocrine and lymphatic systems, and they are also attributed with keeping people looking young in some cases.
Either way you look at it, inversions can do wonders for your body. But what is truly astounding to me is the way inversions can help change you from the inside.
As I stated earlier, putting yourself upside down every now and then can do miracles for your body, but (as I have experienced in my own practice) they can also do miracles on a psychological, and even an emotional level.
It is said that one who can learn to master sirsasana (headstand) can learn to conquer his or her fears. The first time I read this, I immediately ran to my mat and attempted the king of all poses. Sure, I ended up slamming down onto the floor, but I felt so joyous at the fact that I had attempted such a feat, me the fearful child, that it didn’t matter to me.
The second my feet were above my head (before I slammed into the ground, of course) I knew that I was ready for a change. I knew, somehow, that I was going to look fear in the eye, and gently push right past it.
And so, heart pudding, breath catching, palms sweating, and stomach knotting up, I tried once more. And I continued to try day after day, month after month, year after year, until one day, up I went, and up I stayed. I was so excited, I ran to get my camera (I had to document the triumphant moment in case the little yogic fairies decided to come in the middle of the night and take my new super power away form me) set the automatic timer, and assumed sirsasana pose until my heart was content.
Ever since then, I have noticed just how big of a mental and emotional achievement this was for me. Sure, I needed to work on arm and core strength, along with some breath control and leg control, but for me, the real challenge was to actually allow myself to look past the fear (fear of injury, fear of pain, fear of inadequacy, fear of humiliation, fear of abandonment, etc) and simply trust that I would survive it all.
And the bigger challenge was to allow that lesson to transfer off my mat and into my daily life. It was a learning game. A game where every time my feet were up in the air, where they are “not meant” to be, I could take some time to think of how differently my world would look like if I stopped putting it in a box. If I stopped judging and making assumptions and anticipating.
Every inversion brought about a new opportunity to see myself under a different light, a chance to change my perspective of my entire universe, and so, I fell in love with inversions. Until I met Adho Mukha Vrksasana (headstand) and this inversion had a whole new set of fears attached to it. Fear of falling, fear of breaking my nose, fear of not being good enough, fear of change, fear of the unknown, fear of self-sacrifice, and on and on. And every time I practice Adho Mukha Vrksasana, though not yet mastered, I am receiving a gift; a chance to begin to heal and change all kinds of fears with in me. Fears I am aware of, and fears still unknown. But I am able to approach them all gently, and move right past them, one at a time. And it is all because I was willing to look at my universe in an unconventional way.
Are you willing to change your perspective?
“Maybe the only thing each of us can see is our own shadow…” “… Not the exact image, but everything reversed or upside down.”
Chuck Palahniuk

“The world is wrong side up. It needs to be turned upside down in order to be right side up. "
  Billy Sunday