Saturday, April 28, 2012


HAWMC Day #28: The First Time I… Write a post about the first time you did something. What is it? What was it like? What did you learn from it? 

I have some great first time stories that I went over today - first time I flew in an airplane, first real "car date" (ended badly and with possum carnage), first real job offer. But since this is a health focused blog I will talk about the first time in yoga practice that I did a handstand.

I'd been practicing yoga for a few years, but never really advancing beyond a beginner level. That was okay, because at that time yoga was for me a practice in slowing down, observing my body and all sensations without judgement. With a spirit of "un-doing".  That's pretty much back where I am today in some ways, but my understanding of both yoga and my body's doings and undoings is deeper now than it was then. Back then is sometime I think during 2002. I'd scaled back on heavy exertion exercises due to asthmatic and stomach issues I'd been experiencing and decided to really throw myself into a yoga practice. A yoga practice in which I took a live class at least 2-3 days per week plus an additional 1-2 days for a full home practice.  After awhile I would also incorporate short yoga "breaks" in my day.  

This was a good practice for me.  My breathing capacity increased without the stress of outdoor allergy induced bronchial spasms. My endurance and strength increased without the demands on my joints and my stomach to keep up with full-court basketball.  I learned about run-walk interval training and elliptical trainers at that time since I still had the urge for some good old fashioned cardio. I still did strength training in the weight room, but not as frequently as before - moving to an intermediate level of yoga practice takes care of a lot of strength training, actually.

So I started getting braver about inverted poses. Handstand and headstand preparation poses were very taxing (are very taxing again!) - I lacked the strength and the openness in my chest required for those poses. I lacked the core development and the upper back development. Moving to half-handstands was even trickier - but that was often assisted with a partner.  When we felt ready it was time to start practicing kicking up, both instructors I was seeing at the time encouraged us to try. At first very clumsy looking like a quick scissor kick in the air behind me.  After weeks of this, my kick up started to occasionally touch the wall behind me. Then the instructor would assist the final inches so we could feel the sensation of both legs straight up, using the wall for balance assistance.  I could only stay there for a few seconds at that point.  Progressing over more weeks, the kick-ups got more controlled with stronger core muscles. The assisted handstands could last longer and I could play with my shoulder alignment to find the right balance point.

Then one day, I just did it without anyone to spot me. I didn't hit the wall hard with my heel, my core was ready. I could stay there in that position for a little while, and look in between my hands for the optimal balance point.  After several times of this over a few weeks, I could take one foot away from the wall and then another.  I was addicted to the feeling of going upside down. to the feeling of strength and balance it gave me.  Every time, I would relive the elation of that first time I made it to a handstand on my own. From there I found it very easy and so rewarding to move to elbow stand and headstand - but only after building the strength and skills for handstand was this possible.

I haven't been able to do a handstand for quite awhile - first frozen shoulder, and then the Dupuytren's in my hands made it impossible.  With my success at treating Dupe's (albeit still at the beginning, and not completely fixed), I feel optimistic that I can make this a goal again one of these days.  I'm starting from the beginning, or even behind that since I have the limitation of my hands. The preparation poses feel very awkward and difficult.  But I remember the feeling of going upside down and I want to go there again.

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