You know how it is. You want to try something new. Do something different in your business, or maybe in your life.
But you already know it’s too difficult, or too scary or it’s just not the sort of thing people like you do.
That’s how I felt about yoga’s inversion poses. I mostly loved yoga, but the headstand made me feel like the klutzy little girl I was in gym classes years ago. (If you missed that hilarity, catch up with last week’s article here.)
Nothing changed until I met Steve the Marine, and no, “Marine” is not a metaphor for a steely kind of guy. Steve is literally the only yoga teacher I’ve encountered who is also a Marine. His active duty days are over, but he’d be the first to tell you a Marine is always a Marine.
Steve gives cues in class like “lower your legs slowly to the deck.” And he’s not mean, exactly, but he definitely pushes his students.
He pushed me. Sometimes by actually putting his big, meaty hands on my sweaty shoulders or my hips or wherever and giving me an almost-gentle shove. And sometimes by offering “encouragement.” In a drill-sergeant sort of way.
One Thursday night, Steve was obviously over my struggle with the headstand.
He brushed off my too-old-too-fat-not-enough-upper-body-strength-not-enough-core-strength routine.
“Look,” he said, “the only thing standing between you and a headstand is – your head. You’re not too old, you’re not too fat, you have plenty of upper body strength and you have plenty of core strength. You just think you can’t do a headstand.”
Well. This was an interesting way to look at it. It’s clear that I can’t control my feet. But I ought to be able to do something about my head, don’t you think?
So that night, when I got home, I sat down and closed my eyes and imagined myself upside down. Pictured it in rich detail, as if I were standing across the room watching myself practice a headstand.
In my mind’s eye, I saw myself clasping my hands on my purple mat, putting the crown of my head down in that little nest, walking my feet up from behind me, straightening my back, and lifting my legs up into the air.
Then I imagined what it would feel like to do a headstand. I concentrated on the sensation of my hands and arms on the mat – the slight stickiness, the subtle waffle pattern. My fingers woven together, except for the pinkies, leaving them uncrossed so they don’t get squished.
I felt my head nestled into my hands, concentrated on my bare feet walking up behind me and the effort in my core as my legs went up in the air. Enjoyed the feeling of triumph as I imagined myself straight, vertical, and upside down.
I did the same thing again Friday night. And Saturday night. And Sunday night.
On Monday night, I went to Steve’s yoga class. I put my forearms down on the mat, clasped my hands except for the pinkies, put the crown of my head down with my fingers around the back of my head, walked my feet up, straightened my back, and lifted my legs up into the air.
Yes. I did a headstand.
Okay, it was not the most graceful headstand ever done – but it was a headstand. Right there in the middle of the room, because Steve says practicing headstands against the wall is for sissies.
He may not be right about the sissy thing. But Steve was definitely right about me. I wasn’t too old or too fat to do a headstand. I had enough upper body strength. I had enough core strength. The only thing standing between me and a headstand was, in fact, my head.
So I began doing a headstand every chance I got. Yoga teachers would say, “Inversion pose – your choice.” Immediately, I’d put my forearms on the floor, make that nest with my fingers … well, you know the rest. And get this – it was graceful. And powerful.
Yoga teachers, and even my fellow students, would actually comment on my headstand practice regularly. “You’re so strong,” they’d say. Or, “Your headstand is beautiful.” Or, “I wish I could do a headstand like yours.”
Now the truth is, I know what they really meant. They’re too polite to come right out and say, “I can’t believe somebody who looks like you can do a headstand like that!” I don’t care. Doesn’t bother me one bit.
It delights me that I can do a headstand. It thrills me that I managed to get my head out of my way. I’m on hiatus from yoga classes these days, pending a new knee. But I’ve been known to do a headstand in my office – just because I can.
And because I discovered that an excellent way to change your point of view … is to look at the whole world upside down.
Now … think about your work for a moment. How are things are going for you right now? What would happen if you turned it upside down? Post a comment below to share your new perspective.
Good for you Catherine! Great way to use visualization to get past a blocked mind. Thank you for the inspiration. Going to visualize tonight and see how I do tomorrow.
Visualizing is such a powerful tool, Melissa. It’s surprising how much difference it can make to see/hear/feel in my imagination as preparation for an actual real-life experience.
Amazing story Catherine, and amazing accomplishment. I definitely need to get out of my own way and visualize what is possible. I especially like that your success wasn’t exactly slow and incremental, but rather in you and available to access the whole time. Very inspiring!
That’s such a good way to put it, Marcy. Sometimes our success is slow and incremental. But sometimes it is in us and available the whole time. The trick is to remember that when I’m feeling distinctly unsuccessful. And then to do something that helps me access my that hidden-for-the-moment success.
Catherine! Your story made me cry…and I don’t cry easily. I was with you through the whole story. These tears are because you touched something deeply in me. Something for you and all in your life that lead up to that headstand…and something for me of deep encouragement. Thank you!
Oh, Marietta…you must have been deeply touched. Thank you for sharing your experience with me. And, yes, this story should provide encouragement…for all of us. It’s a wonder what we can do when we let go of thinking we can’t.
Great post but my experience is just the opposite.
“Inspired” by a young, thin yoga instructor, I attempted a shoulder stand that knocked the air out of me. While the injury wasn’t life threatening, I required physical therapy to resolve back pain fully.
My takeaway is that you have to respect what your body is telling you.
Ahhh. You’re right, Diana. We have to pay attention to the signals from our body. For me, it was the signals from my head that got in my way.
I knew you told me about the headstands and now I remember Steve – love it! I learned them against the wall – definitely easier. :). However, your story reminded me of my long struggle with handstands and the teacher who, one fine day, helped me to finally get there – it was a woman! She basically told me the same thing Steve told you and of course she was right. I don’t do either now but I do use the memories and the visualization techniques to help with so many things! Thank you Catherine, for a great reminder!
I got out of the headstand habit too, but I’ve been thinking lately I should give it another whirl. I might have to go find Steve to do it!
Yes, visualizing can help with a lot of other things too. I often use it to prepare for speaking gigs.