August 25, 2010

Taking Baby Steps... On My Head

When people find out that I practice yoga, they often assume that I do it for fitness & toning. They ask me questions like "which yoga is best for losing weight" or "can you show me some yoga poses that will tone my arms or abs". Those questions tend to catch me off guard and I often take a moment to think how I might respond. Because to be honest, that's just not what my yoga practice is about.

My practice has always focused more on strengthening my mind than strengthening my body. Sure, I've noticed more muscle tone and overall strength throughout the years and yoga has definitely helped my running. But more important to me is the peace of mind, courage, and emotional strength my practice has provided to help face my fears and conquer new challenges.

Back in February, I wrote a short post about inversions because I had finally gathered the courage to hang out upside down after years of dreading it. I'd always found it scary and uncomfortable. But in class one day, Julia, my favorite instructor, spoke to us about letting go of labels and challenged us to not define ourselves during our practice. I'd always thought of myself as a yogi who didn't do inversions and as long as I defined myself in that way, I was confined by my fears. That day, I did my first inversion, Salamba Sirsasana (supported headstand) against a wall. And I LOVED it!!! I began incorporating inversions into every home yoga session, eventually trying Pincha Mayurasana (forearm stand) against a wall, and soon even pulling myself away from the wall even if only for a few seconds.

Last week, I stumbled upon a picture of Scorpion Pose and instantly fell in lust. I'm sure I've seen this pose before but having previously defined myself as someone who would never do it, I never even considered the possibility. This time, I not only considered it but couldn't stop thinking about it. And so was born a new goal: Scorpion Pose. I don't expect to accomplish this overnight or even in the next few weeks or months; this may take years. But I'm happily embracing the challenge because I know that it's something I'm doing for myself, to build strength and focus, and to prove to myself that I can do anything.

Scorpion Pose
For my first baby step, I've been practicing inversions without leaning on a wall. It's just me, my head, my shoulders, my back, my arms, my wrists, my core, my everything upside down on that mat. And I'm making progress... I can now stand on my head. I feel like a rock star.
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Kneel on the floor and place your forearms on your mat, interlacing your fingers and pressing your wrists to 
the ground. Cradle the crown of your head in your palms.
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Widen your shoulders and back, increasing the distance between your shoulder blades to create a strong
foundation and prevent injury to your neck.
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Side View
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Inhale, lift your knees off the floor and carefully walk your feet closer to your elbows with your heels lifted. 
Keep your shoulder blades firm on your back and maintain the length of your torso.
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Exhale, lightly hop off the floor and lift both feet. Your goal should be to lift both knees at the same time- as you can see, I am still working on this. Use your core strength to lift your legs, pressing your tailbone against the back of your pelvis.
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Keep your weight even between your forearms, pressing your shoulder blades against your back and keeping your torso lengthened with your tailbone reaching towards your heels. Your inner thighs should be turned in slightly and your feet should be flexed (more that I need to work on )

Like I said, baby steps. Thoughts? Tips? Goals or challenges of your own? Please, inspire me!

10 comments :

  1. LOVE that you can do this! I have only dabbled in yoga over the years, but perhaps I should start back again for the reasons you stated.

    Inspiring post!!!

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  2. WOW! That's awesome... total rock star ;)

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  3. Scorpion Pose is so bad ass! this makes me want to try yoga.

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  4. What progress!! Way to Go. Your form looks great. Not that I am an expert on form. I finally met a "Rock Star".

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  5. So cool! I have no space at home to practice yoga..I'm afraid I'm going to fall over and knock into a table/cat ;)

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  6. That is super impressive! I haven't been practicing much lately, but this makes me want to get back into the studio.

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  7. Nice job! I love yoga and definitely do not practice it enough - it's hard to fit in with marathon training taking over my life. Like running, I think yoga is a lot "mind over matter" - it looks like you are well on your way to mastering your new poses :)

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  8. Looks pretty intense! How do you get into scorpion? Headstand then lift your head and curl your legs? I'm a loooong way off.

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  9. awwww shucks... thanks guys! looks like this one will be a long term goal :) but excited to work on it!

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