Tuesday, July 5, 2011


I have a confession. No, make that *two* confessions. I got a new pose last week, Pincha Mayurasana. And it's scaring me to pieces.

I don't have a amiable history with inversions. It took me 10 years to learn headstand, 10 years!!! During the first five years of my yoga practice, I simply refused to do it! And handstand still scares the daylights out of me, even at the wall (away from the wall, it *really* freaks me out; I had a mini-meltdown in the Darby's workshop last October when Joanne insisted that I do it).

When I started Intermediate Series last summer, Pincha loomed menacingly on my horizon but still seemed far away. When I split Primary last month, it went from being a 'someday thing' to a 'any time now thing'. The thought of doing the pose in the middle of the room was terrifying.

So I started working on it at home, at the wall, trying to immune myself to The Fear. A few weeks ago, I started doing it at the shala - adding it with the handstands I scare myself with every day before Bakasana. I'm glad I brought it to DT's attention because I really needed help with alignment.

Last week, DT officially added Pincha to my practice. I wasn't expecting it, in fact, I was resting in child's pose that day because Tittibhasana had wrung me out and I was feeling sluggish. When DT stepped to the front of my mat and said "Pincha Mayurasana! Let's go!", I was kind of in shock.

I did the pose, but I was a basket case. My arms were sliding all over the place, I was fuzzy-brained and my body felt like a wet noodle waving around in space. I spent the rest of that week in a tizzy. I couldn't stop thinking about how afraid I was. DT was spotting me every day, but I knew there was an expiration on that kind of help.

So, mid-week I took Pincha to the park. In the same soft grass I learned to drop back on, I came into Pincha Mayurasana, then I fell. Over and over again, I fell out of the pose. I fell until falling didn't make me weak with fear, until my brain realised I wasn't going to DIE. I even mastered the whole 'drop-n-roll' thing and started to feel little less anxious.

On Sunday, I set up in the middle of my mat and came into the pose without a spot. Of course, I fell. DT looked up and shrugged. "It happens." I tried again, and I fell. Pincha, flip, *whomp* Repeat as necessary! The third time, I was physically shaking but I gave it another go. I hovered for a nanosecond, then I fell again. *Whomp*

DT came over to assist. She had me come up a second time and told me to lotus my legs and lower them. Karandavasana! I faceplanted. *groan* I tried again. I faceplanted but she helped me lift back up. Then I collapsed into anxious heap on my mat. I'm under no illusion that I've been 'given' Karandavasana. What I've been given is a memo telling me that I'm far, far away from being strong enough to do that pose! Holy smokes, that was HARD.

DT is interested in two things: alignment and long holds to build strength. So I'm working at the wall every day, holding the balance for as long as I can (it's not very long). I try to take Pincha away from the wall at least once during every practice. Today, I *whomped*, but I also had one magic moment when I hovered perfectly in balance and came back down.

It's interesting how this new pose adds a completely different flavour to my practice. I used to dread Tittibhasana. Now I drag my heels through Tittibhasana because I'm dreading what comes next. My nervous system has been absolutely *fried*. I've had some trouble with insomnia and I've been sleeping fitfully.

But here's what really boggles my mind: I'm going to get up tomorrow morning and do it again. And the next day too! I'm not brave - where is this coming from? Is it my stubborn steak? Is it faith? I think this stuff may be making me stronger in places far deeper than muscle. I think I'm learning to say 'no' to the part of my brain that says "I can't".

And that's scaring me a little bit too.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad


Ragdoll said...

10 years to learn headstand? I can't do it (won't do it?) after maybe 2 years of serious attempts, and it's so good to read that from you - I was really beginning to think I was some kind of freak.So of course I'm not glad that you've had similar fears, and are going through it all over again with the new one, but there is that relief in finding I'm in very good company!

I also really get what you're saying about being scared and keeping on doing it. I've never been like this with anything before. Anything else, I would have given up by now. But somehow, if it's part of the practice, we keep going and commit, no matter how long it takes. For me, there's definitely stubborness, and a desire to do things properly. The closing poses include a headstand. So I do a headstand - whatever kind of crazy excuse for a headstand that is for me on any given day.

Anonymous said...

Oh boy Kai, This post was more helpful than an entire workshop. The gift of inspiration: Priceless. I confess I was just as scared reading your play by play at DT's :-) well told!

stephanie said...

Glad you're blogging again... sounds like quite an adventure!!

nobodhi said...

Have you thought about practicing Pincha Mayurasana against the wall at home? Once you kick up to the wall, work on your alignment (lift up out of the shoulders, tuck in the lower ribs and the tailbone and stretch up through the balls of the feet) then slowly bring your feet away from the wall to balance.
I think the body needs to get a firm sense of how to balance in this pose first, it needs to KNOW the balance and what it feels like to be there before you can kick up straight into that perfect balance spot (otherwise your body doesn't know what its aiming for when it kicks up).
When the balance starts to come with your feet slightly away from the wall, you can move your arm base a short distance away from the wall and try kicking up straight into the balance (knowing the wall is there to catch you if you over shoot). I remember this helped me enormously - one of yoga's lessons is that we need to build a strong foundation from which to grow from - that applies to learning a new pose.
A strap just above the elbows can help stabilise the arms and shoulders when you're learning this pose too.
Hope this helps...

Kaivalya said...

Yup, 10 years. I retraced the chronology in my most recent post. I can almost guarantee it will get easier. Hang in there!

*waves enthusiastically* Thanks!

Yup, I've been doing the pose pretty much non-stop at home, between the classes I teach - anyplace I can find a wall. And my teacher has me working exactly as you suggested. I need to develop more endurance now and find that balance. Thanks for all the great advice!

susiegb said...

I think I'm the same - 10 years plus and I still can't/don't do handstand! I feel like I lack strength (and definitely balance)! But I have been practicing doing that dolphin pose to build strength and stability for quite a while.

If it wasn't for the fact that I'm just coming out of a few weeks off yoga due to a meniscus tear I'd think I should have another go. But maybe I'll leave it for another few weeks!

Arturo said...

dear Kai
Pincha is challenging for me too. i usually need the wall for comfort. I do Karandavasana with a three point headstand base if there is no one to assist.