Headstand for Beginners

By Laura Samper G.

Your task is not to seek for love, but merely to seek and find all the barriers within yourself that you have built against it.

-Rumi

The Barriers Within

Headstand for beginners – a scary proposition. I had never tried the headstand before, but I imagined doing it like a true Olympic gymnast… My mind would play a detailed movie of me when I was seven years old and could do everything: splits, handstands, triple front and back handsprings, and many other moves. My mind would say—it will be so easy, I did all this when I was a kid, and I can do it again.

The mind is a great storyteller…

Have you ever stopped to listen to its marvelous and intricate plots? Oh my God! Hannah didn’t call me back, she must be really upset. Yes, I shouldn’t have told her I was not going with her to that awful party. I can’t believe she isn’t talking to me…

Sometimes the mind has the capacity to build many barriers and stories to create a false sense of security. Like when you start to fall in love and all of a sudden you are frozen, completely stuck in fear. Oh no! I’m so nervous. Hmmm, he just touched my hand, and his eyes, so beautiful… no, no! Wait! Don’t fall, stay here safe with me. Don’t fall…

Mind Plots

Headstand for Beginners class during Module 1. Ali and David, both Hridaya Yoga teachers led this beautiful lesson on trust and love. In this pic, David was saying: “I’m here. You won’t fall.” Thank you for holding the space.

I would have never imagined that yoga would help me in the process of stripping off so many layers. Practicing shirshasana, the headstand, was especially powerful during the Hridaya Yoga Retreat: Module I Intensive a few weeks ago.

I mean, what could go wrong? So what if I fall? I’m right beside the sea, where mysticism elevates a prayer with each wave crashing on the shore… This is truly a remarkable place. So, I felt ready. I was thrilled when I began to feel an intense fire coming up from the center of my hips right into my chest. A storm of thoughts was about to take over. The power of its voice may burn inside you if you don’t know how to recognize it:

(Gasping sounds). So, are you planning on ACTUALLY performing this nonsense, yogi-style technique? I really don’t recommend it. The other day I was reading, or well, you were reading about it and… Well, probably you should do it, but first, be sure you won’t fall. Don’t fall! Our back will break in half! Are you insane? Ok, do it if you want to, but for God’s sake, don’t fall!

Learning How to Fall

You have probably felt this way, too. You’re on the verge of overcoming a great limitation, or you’re in the middle of a beautiful realization of your True Nature, and the mind, scared of being silenced, comes in like a desperate puppy calling for attention. It blocks you from whatever it is you are feeling, doing, or observing.

This was even more evident to me during my first headstand. I don’t blame the mind, though—I was only seconds away from turning it upside down, and it was about to experience how it feels to lose all control.

This asana comes at the end of the practice session for a reason. According to my teachers, this pose requires a special preparation of the body and the mind. Traditionally, this asana was taught directly from teacher to disciple. Instructions on how to perform the pose are not found in any classical hatha yoga text, including Swami Svatmarama’s Hatha Yoga Pradipika.

Being upside down brings energy and blood to the crown. It is alien to be in this position, so you get a few seconds before your mind begins to talk again. You can feel sensations waking up in your body. Then, you hear the sweetness of silence and the music of complete surrender. The intensity of the fear of falling becomes the energy that keeps you straight. You’re dancing in the sky!

The lesson on how to fall is actually just realizing that you can train your mind (or better said: learn how to listen to it) and that continuing this practice helps you detach from it, time after time. Fear can take many forms, but the more I observe it, the more it speaks to me with love, and it manifests as a green light, a flag that points to the direction I should follow. Fear is a good friend when you get to know it. Once you are in communion with it, what do you think is on the other side? It may be a feeling of intimacy, of coming back to your lover after a long separation.

I’ve come to realize that fear is a beautiful gift for learning how to be humble and patient with myself.

Would You Fall With Me?

I could stay up for 30 seconds, which was more than I could expect as a headstand beginner.

During that short moment up in the air, the fire was replaced by a warm wave of electricity coming from the middle of my chest. A cooler breeze embraced me as I was breathing softer. The mat didn’t felt like a stiff piece of wood underneath my hands anymore. I started to feel the lightness of my body against the ground. The sound of the waves crashing against the shore remained as the only background. My mind kindly whispered:

 I’m falling in love. I’m falling in this immense universe within. I feel I’m actually landing in the beauty of a new world. If I tell you there would be no ground underneath, would you fall with me?

*For more mind tales, fantastic inner dialogues, and unbelievable mental plots, please check out The Untethered Soul by Michael A. Singer, which inspired this post.

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