Yoga Ain’t all Bliss – Headstands can Hurt

All I have been reading lately is about how wonderful and amazing yoga can be. How everyone leaves class feeling elated, invigorated and blissful. Well, let’s just cut the crap. That isn’t always the way yoga is! Yoga can suck, and suck hard! There have been many, many times I have left class feeling exhausted, sore and, I hate to say this, sad. There have also been times when I’ve left feeling hurt. Why? Mainly because I push it too much (but that is my own lesson) and the other reason is that it hurts to fall, not just physically, but emotionally and mentally as well.

I have been practicing yoga since 1996. That’s 19 years. I only started doing Headstand (Sirsasana) two years ago! Yup, 17 years to get over my bullshit excuses and mental blocks and basically fear! Why didn’t I  do them? Because, I had convinced myself that I couldn’t. Years ago, I had tried and gotten hurt, so I was scared and didn’t try again. I had every excuse going, and I’m sure some sound familiar.  Here are a few:

  1. I can’t do headstand. It hurts my neck.
  2. I can’t do headstand. I don’t have enough upper body strength.
  3. I can’t do headstand. I will wipe out everyone in class.
  4. (I love this one the best) I can’t do headstand. My body doesn’t like being upside down.

Deep down, I knew the excuses were all crap. Headstand doesn’t hurt the neck because your head is barely on the ground. Your body weight is supported by your arms and shoulders. If I can surf for hours a day, I definitely have the upper body strength, and if I fall and I am worried about wiping out the people in class, then I just say sorry or use the wall. Finally, I had to address my inner belief that my body doesn’t like being upside down. The hidden truth in that statement is that I was petrified to see myself, and my life, from a different viewpoint.

The truth is that yoga stirs up the shit. It always has. Every time you roll out your mat, you create fire in your body – the  resistance you feel in your body during your practice creates the fire headstandthat leads to your transformation. It’s natural for us to gravitate towards the poses that come easier to us for they have the least amount of resistance. Hell, I am perfectly happy in Spread Leg Forward Bend or Pigeon. You can leave me there for hours. Why? Because I have worked through the tension, pain, fear, anger and resistance that was associated with my hips, root and sacral chakras. (Oh, and that took years and I cried a lot). But the transformation in those years was unbelievable and led me to the person I am today. When you create friction and fire in your body and start to work through your resistances, it is natural for you to feel old emotions, tensions and have painful memories flood your mind. So, it is normal to leave your mat feeling like crap, you don’t have to be all happy and blissful. Feeling like crap or wanting to leave class and cry (this is also very normal) is part of yoga and in my opinion, it is one of the most important components because it means that you are progressing and evolving into the person you are meant to be, the person whose body is in alignment with her soul.

It took five years for me to work through the crap in my hips and it took me 17 to even get to the point of facing the truth of my life. I had built up incredible walls of mental resistance to being inverted. So first, I had to conquer my fear, a fear of falling. I met a great yoga instructor who changed my arm placement and told me that my excuse of not having enough upper body strength was ridiculous. She called me out on my crap. So, I started measuring my elbow placement by wrapping my hands around opposite elbows and then placing them on the matt. From there, I intertwined my fingers (creating a triangle with my elbows) and placed my head on the floor. This simple adjustment kept my elbows in alignment with my shoulders and boom! All of a sudden I felt stable and guess what? Up I went. Cool right? Wrong! Now, I had to practice. So I did against a wall. But then, I had to remove the wall. Guess what? The fear of falling returned Big Time! So I found someone who could teach me how to fall. Considering I was the uncoordinated, chubby kid who was kicked out of gymnastics, I had never learned how to fall correctly. I met a yoga instructor who was an ex-gymnast; he taught me how to fall. This was key for me. Learning how to tuck my chin in and roll out of a headstand instead of freaking out and falling flat. But, I was still scared of falling, even though I had learned how to roll out. So I found a soft grassy field and practiced. I fell, and fell backwards a lot. But, with the grass and rolling out, it didn’t hurt as much and I didn’t hurt my neck. Something happened to me that day in the field. I had been seeing my life from a new and upside down perspective for over a year, but I was still scared. That day in the field,  I lost the fear and I had no more excuses left. I had to move forward with my life no matter who I left behind, no matter how uncertain the future was, and no matter what doubts or obstacles were put in my path. As the blood rushed to my head and my headstand was solid and strong, I knew I had to move forward at all costs. That is how this blog was created – from  the unique and clear perspective of headstand.

My Conclusion

It is true that whether you do yoga or not, your life can change forever at any moment. No matter how hard we try to stay the same, it doesn’t happen. Our souls are meant to evolve and transform. Whether you decide to embrace these life changing moments or blame them on something else (disease, accidents or other people) is up to you. If you follow the yoga path, it is going to suck for a while. Why? Because you will change who you are, what you eat, and what you read. You will change how you perceive, think and act. But somewhere along that path, you will have moments of bliss to balance the resistance. The transformations will lead you to truly being free, to a place where you just trust the universe and you are okay flinging yourself into the unknown. Why? Because you are okay if you fall!

Here’s a little something for you to think about; Headstand (Sirsasana) is often referred to as the king of all yoga postures, as B.K.S. Iyengar lists in Light on Yoga.” He explains that just as a country cannot thrive without a strong and effective king (or head of state); a person cannot thrive without a strong and healthy brain.

Top 10 Reasons for Getting Over Yourself and Why You Should Do Headstand Every Day 

Health Reasons:

  1. As I love sex and anything I can do it make it better, this is an added perk. Headstand stimulates and provides refreshed blood to the pituitary and hypothalamus glands. These glands regulate all other glands in the body (thyroid, pineal, and adrenals) and this includes our sexual hormones, so better sex comes with regular headstand practice.
  2. Thyroid regulation: Many women over the age of 35 are suffering from thyroid dysfunction, so this one is huge. Being inverted refreshes blood to the pituitary and hypothalamus glands, and helps regulate the thyroid. Anyone with thyroid issues knows this is big, as the magic thyroid pill does not always work all of the time.
  3. Are you always cold? Being upside down improves circulation. When in headstand, de-oxygenated blood is able to flow more easily from the extremities to the heart. Plus, it gives your heart a little bit of a break from pumping blood upwards.
  4. Gotta go number 2? Do a headstand, seriously. By being inverted, you increase digestive fire and body heat. The intestines are cleansed by reversing the pull of gravity and this helps release congested blood in the colon and other stuff.
  5. Be happy! When the adrenal glands are flushed and detoxified with headstands, you create more positive thought and you just might smile more!

 Vanity Reasons:

  1. Botox-free “face lift”! Give yourself that awesome face glow. When inverted, you flush fresh nutrients and oxygen into the face, creating a glowing effect on the skin and it reducing the effects of aging.
  2. Grow your hair longer and decrease the grey. I could be out of business as a hairstylist if everyone did this, but when you increase the blood flow and nutrients to the scalp, it helps your hair grow. Some people swear it stops or decreases the onset of grey hair.
  3. Get rid of those gross veins. When you are upside down, the fluid that is retained in the feet (edema) is able to drain, therefore reducing the onset and prevalence of varicose veins.
  4. Wanna 6-pack? Headstand strengthens deep core muscles. When you hold a headstand for an extended period of time, you must engage the obliques, the rectus abdominis and the transverse abdominis. To really work it, pike your legs and lift them up and down.
  5. #1 reason for learning Headstand! It’s great to bust out a headstand at a dance party. It is almost as good as doing the splits!
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