Recently, I took a trip with my family to the Florida coast. On the first day of our vacation, I taught my favorite workshop — Avenues of Joy: A Handstand Festival to the local yoga community. This workshop is a source of passion, creativity and exuberance for me.
And while yes, this workshop is about my favorite inversions — handstands — it’s more about these words from my favorite spiritual group, Abraham-Hicks:
The basis of your life is freedom; the purpose of your life is joy. You're free to discover new avenues for your joy. In your joy you will grow, and in your growth you add to the expansion of All That Is. You're also free to choose bondage or pain ... but everything anyone chooses is only because they believe it will help them feel better.
I let the wisdom of these words settle in. They sum up my approach to life and resonate with me on a deep vibrational level. Handstands are a source of joy for me, which is why I like to teach them to any and all levels.
But more importantly, “Anything anyone ever chooses, they only choose because they believe it will help them feel better.” Ahhhh! Yes! Fist pump! This guides you never to judge anyone (including yourself) for choices — either past or present. We only make the choices we make because we want to feel better, so even if we don’t understand someone’s choice, or sometimes even our own, we don’t have to. We're not meant to understand all things.
As long as we comprehend that all anyone ever wants is to feel better, then what else do we need to know? Release the need to control, understand, judge or micromanage. Simply accept the desire for joy in all creatures, then do your best to uplift them into their joy.
Once we’ve shared this moment of connection, I beg them not to attach their self-worth to a pose. I ask them not to fall prey to comparison or ego. I ask that they simply approach the session with the fascination of what is truly possible here. How can I expand and grow in this playful environment?
Then it commences. We do core work; we open hips; we warm shoulders and wrists. Finally, we start standing on our hands. We play with what I call “exit strategies” and “entrance strategies.” We experiment with varying props. We use the wall. We use partners. We play with transitions from arm balances to inversions. We work one-armed variations. We work fingertip variations. And finally, when we can sweat no more, when we can smile no bigger and when our cheeks are aching from the ecstasy, we rest.
I pour my heart into this journey. I share transparently. I demo, and sometimes I fail at my demos. Usually there's someone in the room who is “better” at inversions than I am. So be it. I look at that as an opportunity to practice what I preach. Instead of trying to beat them, I embrace them and draw them into the limelight. If I waited to be the “best” at what I do, I might never show up. So why not just go for it now in this moment?
The day after this workshop, I was walking back from an afternoon at the beach with my family when I received a voicemail from a friend who had attended the workshop. She said:
“Hey, I’m headed to the airport, but I was calling to tell you that yesterday afternoon and into this morning, our phones have been lit up with people thanking us for inviting them to the workshop. You were a humongous hit. To the point that today, we were eating lunch and another text came in of praise causing us to say, Enough, already! You won over some fans. I hope you have a fabulous week.”
At this point, tears of joy were streaming down my face and chill bumps covered my skin in spite of the heat. Pure joy. Big, exuberant, heartbreaking joy. Many people are so afraid of feeling pain and disappointment that they never allow themselves out on the branch of joy for fear of failure or humiliation — or worse, shame. Is that the way you want to live?
Too many of us go our whole lives never allowing exuberance in. It’s too painful when it passes. What if we never feel that level of joy again?
So I ask you, what brings you joy? What makes you tremble when you speak of it? What makes your eyes shimmer with exuberance? And are you embracing it fully? Are you embodying it? Isn’t it time to do so? This is, after all, your life. It’s not a dress rehearsal. It’s the real thing. Isn’t it time to go for it?