Enlightenment Through Handstand

The yoga teacher training instructors have only known us students for four weeks now. They are both truly wonderful and amazing, as are the nine of us teachers in training. Dove, our instructor for yogic philosophy, history and anatomy lessons, always has beautiful gems of wisdom. Every time she opens her mouth I focus and listen intently to everything she says. There is so much valuable information she gives us during our days together. Dove is also a lot like me: Type A, short, muscular and an all-around badass. She is beyond accomplished and not really a mere mortal. She is Wonder Woman and then some. She’s also extremely loving, more loving than I’ve ever known a human to be. She somehow embodies a balance of extreme strength, love and compassion, in equal parts. Not sure any of us will ever get there but all we can do is try.

On a particularly hot and grueling Sunday morning, with outside temps well over 100 degrees, the ashram training studio was 90 degrees inside with piped in humidity – 70%. Thought I was losing my mind. The day before, we had even stopped class for a quick break, so some of us could be revived by a little bit of watermelon -it worked too. But this morning Dove stood up and told us to put everything away and get ready for a tough practice. It was. We dug deep. I had to go to that place I usually reserve for the Boatman and Core classes. That is how I survived this flow as well. After we were good and warm, however, Dove told us all to go to the wall and start practicing kicking up into handstand. A couple of the teachers in training can do perfect handstands but the majority of us can’t yet. And, even though I love arm balances and headstands, handstands scare the crap out of me. Even with the strength in my arms, my wrists still take a beating attempting handstands and the fear of kicking up and falling over is a big issue for me. Never wanting to back down from a challenge (there will definitely be more introspection on this whole ego issue, in later posts) and always wanting to face my fears, I reluctantly went to the wall. Just shaking my head, I went for a couple of handstand attempts. I became very frustrated and the next thing I knew, I started crying. Who the hell cries while trying to do a handstand? Really? Dove quickly came over and put a hand on my shoulder. She said, “You’ve got this. You can do it. Try again.” With her standing there for a spot, I was able to do a couple more handstands against the wall. It felt good – though painful – to tuck a few more of that move under my belt.

We finished our practice and we sat for a minute and listened to Dove and the much needed wise words after such a hard workout. She told us, “You (collectively as a group) will not find inner peace or enlightenment through complicated poses. You won’t find enlightenment through handstand.” Then she turned and pointed to me, “You, however, that’s probably how you’ll get there.” Now I realize she wasn’t joking because there was no smile on her face, and I also know she wasn’t completely being serious because I really don’t think it’s possible for someone to reach samadhi by way of a handstand. However, there is truth in what Dove said, in the way that a huge mental block will be moved for me, once I can master a handstand. It’s all very Karate Kid, isn’t it? Complete the physical tasks and learn the secrets to life. Makes sense to me. I’ll keep working on that enlightening handstand!

 

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