I Hate Handstands

October 16, 2010

This piece was originally published at The Elephant Journal




“I hate this shirt.” My son takes the grey polo shirt, rolls it up in a ball and drops it.


“What do you mean you hate it?  It’s a perfectly nice shirt.  I just bought it for school. Please put it on and don’t say hate.”


“I don’t want to wear it.”

“Just put it on. We’re late.”


“I don’t like it!”


“Put it on!"


My husband hears this and enters the room. “Hey Bud, let’s go check out your shirts.” he says and leads our boy up to his bedroom. He supports my position. He lays out some clothes and they feel the textures. They talk about the change of season and joke about frozen knees in January. Then, he allows our boy a choice between three appropriate shirts.  Meanwhile, I’m in the kitchen putting a stray plate into the dishwasher, wrapping a freshly baked blueberry muffin for the ride, wiping smudges off the countertop, and fighting back tears.


This is my Monday morning after I invested 15 sweaty, awareness-enhancing hours doing yoga. I took a weekend workshop with Johnny Gillespie who, with the use of straps, blocks and a 95-degree room, encouraged us to slow our practice and uncover bad habits.


“A slower practice brings a deeper level of awareness.” Johnny says and tightens the straps on our forearms and calves. My muscles fight back with twitches and cramps, but our leader assures us that we were “unwinding dysfunction”. “You will continue to strengthen the very thing that causes you pain unless you retrain the body and mind.”


I think, the five-minute forward bend with a cork block wedged in-between my thighs is the very thing causing me pain.


“Okay guys, find a partner because we’re going to work on handstands. No walls!” Johnny announces.


I hate handstands. I haven’t done one since I was a teenager and here I am, in a room with forty people, doing handstands.


My mind lists the things I need to do, check email, call home, eat something. My terrified ego whispers, “Pretend to use the bathroom.” But it’s too late.


My cousin Kim, a strong, admirable yogini and teacher occupies the mat next to mine. She grabs my hands and exclaims “Yeah! I love these.”  I consider slapping her with my sweaty towel.


The teacher uses Kim for the demonstration. She balances on her hands, in the center of the room. Her core holds her steady. Johnny presses his fingers on the soles of her feet highlighting the components of a beautiful handstand. My cousin puts herself upright with grace and purpose and beams at me, “Your turn.”


We reveal who we are in life on our yoga mat. Habits and attitudes limit us. We move quickly and find comfort in patterns, even if they do not serve us. It appears in the yoga studio, the grocery store and when we rush to dress a five-year-old for school.

I attempt excuses, but Kim is adamant.  “I’ll be your wall.  I won’t let you fall backwards.”


I remain on my hands for a half a minute, but in that inverted moment I glimpse new capability. Yoga uncovers hidden parts of yourself, then shifts your life. It summons the lessons needed lessons for transformation.  We can resist, but the longer we take to see the harder the lessons get.  Until at last, we see the very thing we resist, reflected back at us, by our child.


I left the workshop understanding new things about my shoulders, hips and handstands, but Monday morning I failed to bring them off my mat. I took care of the dog, laundry, dishes, and food and packed up with routine precision.

Asanas reveal our fears, strength and inner resolve. You can fall into patterns and feel pain or you can master each moment with courage and allow inversions in your life; where hands become feet, the child becomes the teacher, and loved ones help you discover balance.


I loaded the car on schedule turned to my son and told him, “I’m sorry we had a fight.” He responded, “What fight?” Daddy’s patience counterbalanced me. I laughed and handed him the warm muffin.


“Here eat this and fill up your tummy for school.”


My son opened the napkin, groaned, and said, ” I hate blueberry muffins.”

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