Musings from a life learning yogini
Yoga is about letting go and finding YOU in the middle of chaos.
A centred, grounded, curious and beautiful you.
Yoga is about letting go and finding YOU in the middle of chaos.
A centred, grounded, curious and beautiful you.
Ensure your hands are underneath your shoulders in handstand.
I hear many a yoga teacher talk about hands being “outer shoulder distance” apart in downward facing dog, which is where you move into your handstand from. While this is not unhealthy and may be required for tight shoulders, it is tricky to balance upside down when your arms are in a “V”! It’s easier to balance when your joints are stacked. If you don’t know what you look like in dog or going upside down, take a picture! Until you look closely, it might be hard to notice the difference, but the embodied difference is huge. I had trouble finding balance long enough to take the picture with my arms in a “V” while I can sit for over a minute with my joints stacked. Pic 1: Dog with arms in “V”. Pic 2: Handstand with arms in “V”. Pic 3: Dog with arms prepped for stacked handstand. Pic 4: Handstand with joints stacked.
Push Down in high plank.
Like in handstand, you also want to practice pushing down in high plank. Push the floor away so that your upper back domes. This will build much needed stability and strength around the (very mobile) shoulder joint, as well as build the desired strength necessary for your arm balances and handstands. This video demonstrates the doming you want to aim for when holding high plank, through an exercise called scapular pushups, which is another great strength and stability building practice!
Push Down in handstand.
In other words, push the floor away (because sometimes just saying it a different way makes it click). Pushing down stabilizes your joints, your posture. I didn’t get this tip until a few years ago and it was transformative for me. It took a bit of time for me to find balance in my handstand once I began pushing down, but once got used to pushing down, my handstand practice took off because balancing was so much easier in a stable posture! Here, Raleigh demonstrates her growing ability to walk while I demonstrate not pushing down, to pushing down, back to not pushing down again. Always ask if you have questions, here or in class!
In my blog Learning to Handstand I discuss learning how to fall out of handstand by learning to cartwheel, then cartwheel out of handstand, as well as falling out of handstand into wheel. In this post I’ll discuss spending as much time upside down as you can as well as getting messy!!
In order to get better at anything, you’ve got to practice! Get on your hands as much as possible. Whether on the field at one of your kid’s soccer games, at home, in studio or on vacation, get off your feet and onto your hands. Play!! If you see someone who’s got more skills on their hands than you, the only reason for this is: they’ve spent more time on their hands! There’s no replacement for time and practice. This is my friend Tia in handstand during a hike! So beautiful and SO MUCH FUN.
Next tip: be willing to get messy! I cannot stress this enough. The VAST majority of people I see in yoga classes trying to get up into handstand or press handstand look really good. Maybe they’re doing beautiful low to the ground frog hops, or when working press, they’re in a beautiful forward fold leaning weight into hands and lifting heels shifting weight forward and back, forward and back, maybe bringing one foot to their wrist and then the other. The thing is though, months (or years) later, they’re still doing the same thing and they’re not in handstand and have not learned to press. I think part of the reason we do this is: a. we don’t want to embarrass ourselves and b. we’re scared of falling. Get messy! Learn how to fall and definitely embarrass yourself. It will give others courage to do the same. Really really really. It doesn’t start out pretty, so if you plan/need/want to stay on your mat, give it up. If you want to get it right the first try, have pointed toes, straight legs or impress somebody, give that up too! Abandon your ideas and expectations. In addition to the fact that the handstand variation you’ve been trying so long and hard for usually shows up when you stop trying so hard, the most awesome part about giving up expectations and ideas is that you stop giving a shit about whether or not you get to the destination because the journey is the best part!
An 8-week progressive course on handstands, check it out!!
Saturday’s September 9- October 28 from 10:30am-12pm @ Kahlena Movement Studio in Edgemont Village
How to fall out of a handstand
How to balance in handstand including variations
Specific conditioning techniques in order to press handstand
How to work into one handed handstand
This course is all about learning the “how”
I’ve taught many workshops and classes on handstands. The AWESOME thing about this progressive series is that unlike one class or workshop, we can break down each step of a handstand and it’s many variations, so whether you are stuck getting up into handstand, getting away from the wall or learning to press or work into one-handed handstand, we’ll have the time, weekly practice and teaching to figure out where you’re stuck and how to get you to the next level.
For more information, shoot me a message. To register, click here: http://kahlena.com/
Being a handstand nerd, I get a lot of questions about handstands. So, I’m going to start a series of blogs about learning to handstand. Tip #1 and BY FAR the most important tip in becoming a successful hand stander in my experience:
GET AWAY FROM THE WALL AND LEARN HOW TO FALL!
It’s about fear. If every time you do a handstand you are scared of falling, there will always be something to resist and push away (fear). Which means you’re not going for it completely. Even if you can go into handstand and “not fall”, you’re always scared of falling, so you’ll never go far enough to fall over. You may make progress, but it will slower because you’re facing resistance. If you are someone who is scared of falling, imagine not being scared. Imagine how much FUN hand standing would be. Imagine how much more practice you’d get in class.
Steps to get away from the wall:
If you have a history of being scared of falling, I would suggest going to an open gym at a local gym club and finding one of their soft mats so that if you crash hard, it’s still soft. You WILL figure it out, but it will take a number of tries, so expect to tumble. Alternatively, it would be good idea to pay for a private lesson at this point, just to get you through your fear and comfortable with falling. See this video of Cartwheeling out of Handstand.
Most people don’t know this about me because I was too ashamed to talk about it for a long time. Now, the people close to me know about it, but I’ve never shared this publicly. However, after hearing about one mom I know develop postpartum psychosis, another with postpartum depression and then hearing about the woman from New Westminster with a 2-month old baby who went missing with suspected postpartum depression, I’m speaking out.
After my third child Sadie was born, I experienced some form postpartum depression. It was never diagnosed, but I didn’t know how to make it to the next moment let alone the next minute. I had suicidal thoughts but felt too stuck to act on them because I could not abandon my kids, I felt helpless, and all of this led to 5 years of alcohol and sleeping pills to quell my fear of sleep.
I say all this because there seems to be this idea out there that having babies is easy. It is not. There is a reason for the saying: “It takes a village to raise a child.” Having a baby is incredible- from ecstasy to despair, but the ecstasy side of the spectrum (the good stuff) only happens if you have the support you need to experience it, and I do not believe our culture as a whole supports new moms even close to well enough. We seem to be particularly “villageless”, us and our nuclear families… Moms with new babies here are expected to go back to work, to get back in shape, to cook, to have a clean and tidy house, to look after their other children, to get back to their previous life, basically to get back to doing it all (by themselves), within days or weeks of having a baby. The expectations and pressures are completely unrealistic. Add this to our tendency to push away and hide uncomfortable feelings AND social media which makes it seem like everyone else has it together and we’re the only ones failing (5 minutes before we posted that cute baby photo on Facebook and Instagram, we were sobbing on the floor. Really), and it’s a recipe for disaster.
When disaster strikes like it did for me after Sadie was born, no one took me seriously, or at least not seriously enough. I’m not sure if the people who knew what was going on knew what to do, or how to help, or that it was as serious as it was? In my mind, I felt (and still feel) like people thought: “This is what having babies is like. Yes, it’s hard, but it will end and everyone does it and you just have to get through it and suck it up.” It’s been like this for other women I know too (and PS. I don’t want to just have to “get through it”. I wanted this baby, I want to love having a baby!!). They had to be hospitalized or do something drastic (like disappear) to get heard.
The thing was, I couldn’t suck it up or work harder. I had been pushed under the water and was drowning. I needed someone to pull me up and there was no one there. Which is where the drugs and alcohol came in. If you’re wondering why this blog is on my yoga website, it was yoga and meditation that helped me quit the drugs and alcohol- I knew that my mind and it’s stories would run endless circles to scare me and that I had my breathe to bring me back to the here and now and stop that cyclic thinking.
With my fourth child, I got prepared. I knew my limits, I knew what I was scared of, and I set myself up with the tools and supports I needed to help me. I also consciously let go of cultural ideas about how quickly I needed to “get back at it” after having a baby and I let go of the “super mom” ideal that I should be able to do it all, by myself. Without external pressures, I didn’t have to worry about getting back to my “pre-pregnancy shape” (insert barf emoticon. I birthed a freaking human, my body will never be the same!) or somehow watch one child at gymnastics for 5-hours because she is having a hard time adjusting to the new sibling in the house, while making dinner, while picking up two other kids from school, while breastfeeding, while doing laundry- you get the idea.
My hope in writing this blog is that our awareness surrounding the postnatal period and our support of new moms and new babies will grow so that as a culture we can recognize and respect how life altering having a baby is (even if it’s your 4th). So, I am writing this is for all mothers. For all mothers who have gone through some form of postpartum depression or psychosis in silence and isolation. For all mothers who are still tackling fear as a result of postpartum depression or psychosis. For all mothers to be and for all babies to come. Find or build your village and lean on them for support. Ask them questions. Ask for help. Call them to sob and to celebrate! If you are or wind up in complete darkness, know there is light at the end of the tunnel. I couldn’t see it with Sadie- I was completely surrounded and saw no way out- but now that I have come through it, I know it is there. I am also writing this for all families and communities bringing babies into their fold. Moms need you. Probably more than they will say. Having a baby is not easy, but it will be incredible and it CAN be amazing if you have or get the support you need. If you think you’re alone, you’re not. You are not crazy and you are not a horrible mother. You are one of us.