Yoga Handstand Building Blocks Workshop at Avani

Posted September 30, 2014 in yoga, handstands, workout, fitness, healthy living, Avani Yoga Studio, health

I've been doing yoga regularly since January. After just a few months of practice, and after following some amazing yogis on Instagram, I decided that my "yoga goal" was to get into a handstand.

Coming from being a runner (setting PR's, training for races) and just being the type of person who likes to set goals, I felt like I needed to be working towards something in yoga.

Also seeing all of the super fit yogis (Yoga GirlBeach Yoga GirlLaura SykoraKino MacGregorTara Stiles and others) on Instagram made me feel like I needed to be able to do inversions to be "good" at yoga. 

So when Chelsie, a yoga teacher at Avani Yoga Studio in Hastings, contacted me on Facebook and told me about the handstand workshop, I was so thrilled! (Avani is where I used to practice yoga when the BF lived there). I even started practicing a bit at home so I wouldn't look like a total beginner at the workshop.

But I never got into a handstand during my practice at home. And doing yoga (to practice my handstand) started to seem more like another thing on my to-do list rather than something I really wanted to do. 

When I arrived at the workshop, I was a bit intimidated. There was a full class - about 20 people. I was pretty anxious about struggling in front of a large group of people. 

Avani brought in Suzanne Wright, a yoga teacher from Lotus House of Yoga in Omaha, to lead the workshop.

But Suzanne immediately had us raise our right hand and promise that we would leave the class feeling successful and satisfied even if we didn't do a handstand. She explained that she would lead us through the building blocks of a yoga handstand to incorporate into our practice so that we could eventually do a handstand.

We started the class with something that was surprisingly scary and anxiety provoking for me - cartwheels. This was a way to get us to get upside down and land on our feet. My first one was incredibly pathetic. I think I left one leg on the ground if that is even possible. But I did a few more, and they were slightly better. 

(Photo credit: Elizabeth Israel, Avani owner)

Before we began a yoga flow to get warmed up, Suzanne talked about being vulnerable. In a handstand, you have to be vulnerable because your balancing the heaviest part of your body (your butt/legs) on the lightest part of your body (your arms). You have to open yourself up to allow yourself to get there. 

 We then went through four building blocks of a handstand.

  • An exit strategy. Land on your feet!
  • Legs and feet. Basically activating your legs and pressing the balls of your feet toward the sky and pointing the toes (Barbie feet).
  • Core. Tightening your core.
  • Arms and hands. Keeping your arms as straight as possible, keeping shoulders away from your ears and keeping your biceps turned toward your ears. Fingers are pressed into the mat, palms are slightly lifted forming a cup.

At some point during the class - maybe when we were doing little kick ups and trying to get some hang time in the air and I was basically coming inches off of my mat with no hang - I realized that I was letting my fear take over and I wasn't using the strategies Suzanne had just taught us. I'm totally afraid of being upside down!!

(Photo credit: Elizabeth Israel, Avani owner)

After savasana, we sat cross legged and Suzanne said, "This is about the journey, not the destination." I realized that I wasn't really enjoying the journey because I was focused on what I couldn't do and where I wanted to be. 

I finally realized that I don't need to have a pose goal in yoga. Yoga isn't about doing poses. 

What I love most about yoga is the spiritual part, learning about my strengths and weaknesses, taking time to breath deeply (something I don't do enough day to day) and leaving with a sense of calm. Having a goal was diminishing those things that I love about yoga.

I truly believe that what happens on your yoga mat says a lot about what you're going through in life. I struggled with opening myself up and being vulnerable when practicing handstands. Although I do open up daily on this blog about my life, what I eat, how I workout, my struggles, etc. I do struggle with communicating my feelings. I tend to hold things in when I'm upset. 

So in the end, the handstand workshop was incredibly eye opening for me. I'll continue to practice yoga and enjoy the journey rather than focus on the destination.

What do you love about your yoga practice?

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