Thursday morning, as I stepped onto my yoga mat, I thought “hey! I think I should work on headstand!”. I say “work on” because I never intended to actually go into a headstand. Headstands are tricky and require way more core work than most people really consider. The idea is to lift up through the core and the shoulder so that there’s not much weight on the head. This is why I usually practice headstand at a wall. Also, I’m afraid of falling over and whacking my legs on something or scrunching my neck and paralyzing myself. My shoulders are strong enough to lift the weight off my head if I let the wall support my legs. I don’t really have a good wall space in the office where I practice yoga, so I haven’t really practiced headstand in a while. I thought my practice would be best served if I just worked on core things and headstand prep. With the top of my head resting on a blanket and my forearms pressed into the mat, I used my core muscles to hop up and down with one foot and then I went into headstand. Bloop. Just like that I was doing a headstand. No wall. No safety net. Me in a pain-free headstand. I didn’t stay up there for five minutes, but I did stay put for five calm, even breaths. Then I came down and said to know one but me “Holy crap! Did you see what I just did!??!”.

No, but seriously. Did you see what I just did? Because it’s not about the headstand or how long I stayed in headstand. I never believed that I had the strength to get into a proper headstand without hurting myself. I had two things working against me to get into this pose: fear and lack of faith. I was terrified of hurting myself. I’d done it before. I came into headstand to fast once, lost my balance and flipped over. I had crick in my neck for days after and a giant bruise near my ankle where I hit the corner of some bookshelves. I decided then that I would never be able to do an unsupported headstand. I would never have the right strength to do it, despite all of the core strength training I’ve been incorporating in my practice. I lacked the faith in myself to have the ability to build the strength to do this pose and I lacked the faith that I could execute this pose on my own. I always needed that safety net of the wall.

“Conquering one’s greatest fears often enhances one’s evolution.” That comes from The Essence of Yoga in the passage for Yoga Sutra II.4. It’s a passage I had just read a few days earlier. I remember thinking at the time that this was a good quote, but it wasn’t in my head when I decided to include headstand in Thursday’s practice. But, Wow! What an empowering message. I am thankful for conquering that particular fear, but I’m more thankful for the found faith in myself.

I continue to be thankful for my food (guys, I’ve lost the ability to peel off my lips). I am thankful for the daily reminders of the joy present in my life. And I am thankful for you. Here’s to a great weekend and a very Thankful Friday.