Friday, July 23, 2010


I can't do a headstand.

It's true. When I first began to practice yoga eleven years ago, every class wound down with headstand. I was getting close, and then, all of a sudden, headstand was out and everyone was ending class by teaching handstand against the wall. Don't get me started on that.

When I began practicing with Sherman a year ago June, and he taught pincha mayurasana in the center of the room, I decided inversions weren't going to stop me anymore. Like an inchworm I crept up on the pose. Until, a few days ago, Sherman instructed those of us still finding the pose to begin with headstand and then press up into forearm. I froze. He noticed and, from across the room, told me to try it the new way.

I was forced to confess the gaping sirsasana-shaped hole in my practice.

It doesn't make sense that I can't stand on my head at this point. So I decided to go at it with fresh eyes, and asked a friend, the inestimable Taylor Spearnak, for some help before class. For months I've watched her press carefully and deliberately into headstand after class, and I know she practices like a demon at home. A zen demon. She advised me to stay in my tuck for a while. I don't mean a few minutes. More like, a few weeks. I have trouble getting my legs off the ground into the tuck, and I sense that this is because my hips need to be an inch or so further over my shoulders.

I know where I'm going. I've had the feeling of perfect balance, where my feet seem to float off the ground on their own. And I love that feeling of balancing in the full pose -- which is in no way static -- more like a stalk of wheat swaying with the revolution of the earth.

I know where I'm headed. I know the steps necessary to get there. Putting it together has me stuck.

So, Taylor advises me to press down with my wrists and I realize it's not about my literal wrists, but rather the first three or four inches of my forearms. I press down as hard as I can with the "wrists." I remember a tip from Jerry Bianchini, who put a soda bottle a few feet behind my mat for me to focus on while upside down -- because I tend to forget where I am in space like a lost diver, who forgets to follow the bubbles toward the surface. And then Sherman tells me to stay forward on my head (Really?!! Revelation.), and not to grip my hands so tightly together. I tend to clutch my fingers behind my head as if my hands are my brakes, which, in this case, they aren't. The hands don't do much at all -- what a coincidence -- another opportunity to LET GO!

I got into my tuck, balancing, and awesome Taylor screamed like Coach Taylor on Friday Night Lights -- "Suck in your gut! Suck it in! Suck it in!" And I do. The fact that I could find my gut while upside down was a breakthrough. I compacted myself, and remained conscious, all the while balancing on my head. Awesome.

It makes perfect sense that I am challenged by forearm stand. I skipped from A to D. Now I have to go back and fill in B&C. Humbled once again, I meet myself on the mat, the sum of all my teachers. (Whether or not they choose to claim me.)


On another note: I feel like crap. I'm on my third day of a migraine -- it feels as if my brain is sloshing around my skull like the bubble in a carpenter's level.

In addition to the headache, the spots in my vision, and the nausea, I'm battling a heavy case of stinkin' thinkin'. Do any of you walk around the streets -- or drive them -- arguing with people in your head, defending yourself to them, stressing yourself out via your own imagination? If these arguments do come up IN REALITY, it's not like solo practice is going to make any difference. This self-inflicted angst is not doing the pain in my head any good.

I know how to heal myself. Yoga, obviously. I tried today, but left after 55 minutes because the floor was pitching like the deck of a Bering Sea crab boat. I'm already known at Yoga Sutra as The Girl With the Vuvuzuela Fart. I'd hate to be The Girl With the Coconut Water Puke All Over Her Mat. I have enough problems.

But I think my weight is out of control, and the extra 60 pounds hanging off my frame is pulling everything out of whack. Including my spirit. I wish I could just let it be -- I'm proud of myself in most areas of my life these days. But my body? Despite its strength and flexibility, I am ashamed. I never look in a mirror anymore. Sometimes I don't go out because I'm embarrassed about the way I look. It was one thing when I had the stress and demands of writing As the World Turns keeping me in my chair around the clock. That is gone. I'm all out of excuses.

I need to return to the original Yogini Bikini mission. I have 5 months left. And the bikini's still hanging on the closet door.

I have a vision of myself speeding along Manhattan streets on my pretty pink bicycle, sundress blowing out behind me, feeling pretty and free. The dress doesn't fit right now. Most of them don't. And buying new clothes won't help. Anything looks good on a body in balance. And conversely....

I have so much gorgeous fabric waiting just across the room to be made into sundresses for biking, dancing, brunching.

I guess I'm asking for help. I'm not sure what kind of help I need, but I'm hoping you, my friends and readers, have some words of wisdom for me. All comments welcome.

As I start over... again... I thank you for being part of my yoga adventure. Namaste.

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