Back in 2009, when I was studying for an undergraduate degree in Biology at Barry University in Miami, I enrolled myself into a yoga class that the school offered in exchange for credit that counted toward graduation requirements.
It was my first encounter with yoga; spanning the entire semester, the course opened my eyes to the strength and flexibility to be had by this activity.
After that semester, I both left Barry University as well as I had done away with yoga –at least for the time being. Four years passed before I felt any inclination to engage in yoga again.
During my time at the University of the West Indies, while studying to earn a degree as a Doctor of Dental Surgery –a dream I have since allowed to pass me by—I became very interested in my overall fitness and wellness.
I stumbled across a few articles, and Youtube videos on different yoga poses, and in addition to my high intensity interval training regiment, I decided to boost up on flexibility.
What’s fascinating about the body is that while we exist with a certain level of muscle memory we allow ourselves to believe that the knowledge –both of your body and mind—of any form of fitness –no matter how proficient you used to be– is similar to that of riding a bike. Neither you nor your body forgets.
These are all lies. Trust me.
So a few days after my desire to once again join the bendy world, I bought a mat, a strap and a block and decided that
I would go through this particular experience on my own. I, also, opted out of the sun salutations, as much of my cardio came from my HIIT training. Instead, I worked on my core strength, as well as, my flexibility.
Being the daring –some would say foolish—person that I am, I decided that Sirsasana would be the first pose I mastered. That is, the headstand.
In Sirsasana that is, the headstand (as demonstrated by this amazing yogi I follow names Adriene) your core muscles, and strength is much of what the body relies on for support in this upside down pose
Yes, while the body does receive some stabilization from the forearms, the truth is the real nitty gritty work is ha
ndle by your core. (This pose does wonders for those abs!)
In a recent yoga class I took, I saw a few other yogis transition into the headstand from a forward bend. I thought to myself, that I knew enough and trained my body rigorously enough –even though I had once again put down my yoga efforts; this time, two years had passed—I decided that I wanted to try and prove that I was able to do that as well.
This is that moment in both the story and in life, when both my conscience and what common sense I have, earnestly warned me not to rob myself of what little dignity I had left and to simply try it when in the confines of my own home. Private. Away from the people with sense. Needless to say I didn’t listen. Well that is, in a sense.
But! The good news is I didn’t exactly do the stupid thing and embarrass myself during class. I decided to wait until the class had ended. I was in my forward fold and realized that my range of motion was d
epressingly lower than it was, and that if I had attempted my headstand with no help or wall behind me to block my fall, I would end up in the E.R. My insurance is not that good.
Once the class had been released, I told my yoga buddy to spot me as I attempted it again. Getting into form, arms firmly planted beneath my shoulders,
fingers interlaced, with my head gently resting in my palms and slightly on my mat.
I raised my hips, and walked my legs into my chest, slowly and one at a time. I lifted one leg bending my knee, and allowed the other leg to follow suit until my entire lower body was completely off the ground. I then extended my legs above me, slowly straightening them.
After I achieved my headstand, with my buddy hovering to the side of me in the event that I had toppled, I felt every possible muscle of my core engage, muscles that I forgot about, and muscles that screamed you better come out of this pose now while you can still do so with grace.
I felt my body sway as if it was a palm tree caught in the oceans breeze and before I could control my legs back to the mat, my body collapsed.
I realized a few things then, it is very, very important to both trust and listen to what your body is telling you. Muscle memory is real but so is the complacency that weakens the
strength of those muscles.
Never assume that because you were once proficient at something means that you will remain that way without practice, and finally, there is no shame in asking for support. Whether that be of a good friend, or a sturdy wall.
I bow to the divine in you as the spirit within me honors the spirit within you. Even in this crazy world.