“I want to do a shoulder stand…a headstand…a handstand…”
So much out-ward energy for such in-verted positions.
Our desire in life to be able to “do” something is strong, and that strength is a very valuable thing. But when it comes to yoga, this striving for achievement isn’t our top priority. In fact, it’s not much of a priority at all. Where you are right now, is fine. It’s all you need and it’s enough.
That’s hard to hear though. That you’re enough. After all, your entire life has been concerned with learning to be better. You’ve literally had years and years of education that has told you there’s more to be done. Learn more, be more, get better.
Well….you can see how this is a never ending loop…
One of the great benefits of yoga however, is that, over time, our rajastic nature – our nature to be active and actively strive for something – is gently softened. We become more and more content with our selves and where we’re at. As such, our asana practice is far more an honest reflection of ourselves, than an activity we’re doing to be a better self.
That’s not to say we shouldn’t do our asana practice, but more that we should become conscious of why we’re doing our practice. Are we doing it because it simply feels great? Because it realigns our energy? Because of its harmonising affect on our mind? Or are we doing it because we want that accolade of achievement? That buzz? That instagram photo???
Whatever your reason, inversions seem to excel in the ability to hit the mark. They’re both particularly inward yet outward postures. Headstand and shoulder stand are often referred to as the king and queen of asana. But that’s not because they’re showy, egocentric postures – it’s because of their selfless nature. A true monarch is acting to help their people, and these postures are likewise helping their practitioner. These in-versions drive the breath and mind in-wards. They allow us to deeply slow down, to be still and to be with ourselves.
Handstand, meanwhile, is the court jester. It’s certainly the most outward of inversions. A playful yet talented joker. Indeed, traditionally, a jester is used to curb an ego driven monarch, to show them that they’re human and their purpose is to help others not themselves. That’s the lesson of handstand – it’s why we all fall over when we try it. To humble us. And on top of this, it also teaches us that great strength is needed to cut through an ego.
If, in our practice, we cut straight to the court jester without having the courtly king and queen to entertain and keep us in check, we’ll soon end up just larking about. And that has nothing to do with sadhana. In this way, a number of traditional yoga practices leave out any form of handstand for much later in the development of a daily practice. The inward is more important than the outward.
But whatever your initial reasons for doing inversions, they will ultimately end up doing you. The yoga is working on you, you are not working on the yoga.