Bend that Cord!

Its only when I was learning how to do headstands that I realized how difficult it must have been for us to learn how to stand up straight on our legs! When I am doing my headstand I can not think of anything else but my breathing, constantly focusing on my core, my legs, my eye movements, and pose correcting to make sure I don’t fall. What we don’t realize after 20+ years of standing straight is that “Tadasana” standing up is actually a balance pose and form matters.

We forget how to “consciously” stand. We forget to take note of excessive pressures we put on our lungs, stomach, hips, knees and ankles. To the extent that we don’t stop to wonder why we get tired within 5min of standing when actually with our years of practice, we should be able to stand straight for hours!

Ever wondered – why slouching, bending forward is the default position for most people? Lifting heavy bags, working on our laptops, reading, writing and reaching out towards things we like, makes our back move forward. It’s of course a little painful in the beginning but we take it as part of the Job. Soon we become used to to the pain and make it a default position. But its not the body’s default position. Our blood flow is unable to adjust to the slouch and gets clogged. Our lungs can’t function when they are constantly compressed.

We need to rebel against what we have done to our bodies. We NEED to consciously do counter poses – back bends and side bends to make the back flexible and return it to its default position. Whenever you feel like you have been sitting for too long do a counter pose. Take a deep breath, exhale and bend your back backward. Give it a sideways twist for fun! Whenever it hurts to stand for any longer, do a counter pose. Move your weight to front and back of your toes till you feel you are balancing it equally on the foot. Take a deep breath, exhale and bend you back backwards. Give it a sideways twist for fun! Inhale. Exhale.

 

How to ease into a Headstand

Three years ago, I decided I want to learn how to flip my body up side down and get into a headstand.

It took me a couple of months to overcome my fear and get my legs up against the wall, another six months to learn how to maintain balance without the support of the wall and almost two impossible years to move into a gracious jerk-free, guaranteed headstand balance in the middle of the room. I had tried different tricks, watched several youtube videos and almost given up till I tried these three simple things that transformed my handstand in the last 10 days!

 

Exhale when you lift up: One of the most important things while being upside down is breathing.

After the dolphin pose, bring your legs as close to the forehead while maintaining a stable 90degree position of the top of the head, As soon as you feel you have achieved the limit and head is starting to lose balance, take a deep breath and start slowly exhaling and simultaneously lifting one and then second leg to the middle position. Exhale further and you will feel the stomach tightening that will help you move your legs further up to the final position. Exhale the last air out of your lungs to stiffen your core and get into the proper stable headstand

 

Divide the move into three stages: Headstand is not one pose. Its a final milestone of the journey and every-time you get into it you have to pass through the other milestones. You cant jump to it.

The reason it took me two years to master headstand was because every time I would just jerk my legs from the floor to the air hoping that I would catch my balance. Sometimes it worked, and sometimes it didn’t. The fear that it wouldn’t, esp in yoga classes, made sure that I could never get into a non assisted headstand in a yoga class but could do one at home.

Divide the pose into three or more stages – On the floor, legs half up in the air and both legs straight up in the air. When you are at each stage, take a second or just consciously move your attention for a split second to make sure you are stable with  a quick check of the key body parts (balance of head, even pressure distribution in the hand and stability). Just knowing this helps move onto the next stage smoothly

 

When falling fwd tighten the lungs, when falling backwards stiffen the legs: While you are learning headstand you fall. There is no escape. Loosen the grip and let the body fall to avoid injuries.

After you have mastered headstand, you still fall because the mind wanders. But knowing what you can do to adjust balance when you feel the bosy swaying fwd  / backwards helps to consciously stabilize the body.

How to know where you are falling: When you are falling fwd you will feel more pressure on your hands, but when falling backwards you will feel more pressure on your head

 

In the end, one you are in the pose, play with it. In a perfect headstand you balance all your weight in a tiny area at the top of your head. Its not easy and definitely looks like a serious pose, but play with it and have some fun. Because the rush of blood in your head and the energy you will feel afterwards is going to make it addictive for you!