In 2004, I was living in the suburbs as a single mom because it was more affordable than city living. This meant it was really difficult to go out on Saturday night. It could easily cost me $250 to go out, including a ride to and from town and baby-sitting costs plus spending money. So I rarely ventured out, and more often I opted to stay in, roll out the mat and start inverting. That's why handstands are a joy for me, and they've been featured in my classes regularly since I started teaching.
When I moved to Fort Worth, very few people had a regular inversion practice. Now, handstand-happy folks are rampant in this fair city of mine. So when I saw the handstand challenges gaining some steam in social media, I decided to give it a try. One of my dear friends, Amber Shumake, was taking it on, and I knew I would regret it if I didn’t join.
On May 15, 2013 I decided to join a 365-day handstand challenge.
It had been a long time since I'd taken on an assignment for any significant length of time. So the lessons were rampant and ripe. Here are the most poignant.
1. Doing something every day and documenting it isn't easy.
Life isn't easy. From what I can tell so far, it’s not meant to be easy. Spiritual masters the world over teach that we learn our greatest lessons in our struggles. Everyone I know is undergoing a struggle in some way right now. Things aren’t going to be easy. Do it anyway, and by "it," I mean that thing that gets your blood pumping, heart racing, joy flowing.
There were many days when I was getting into bed at night and thought, "Oh f*ck! I didn’t do my pic." So I would climb out of bed and find a place to take the pic. It's hard. I’ve learned to accept and appreciate challenges and welcome the difficulty as an incredible learning tool.
2. Not everyone will support you on your journey — cherish the people who will and forgive the ones who won’t
Most of the time, my family wanted nothing to do with this challenge. It’s something we see in life. As we excel, move toward our dreams, put ourselves out there, some people will support us and some won’t. It’s OK. It doesn’t make things impossible. It doesn’t mean what you're doing is right or wrong. It just means some people will understand and some won’t. Some people will rally to your cause and support you; some won’t. Don’t give up. Tell the people who support you, "Thank you." And tell the ones who won’t, "Thank you." Both have valuable lessons to teach.
3. Sometimes we can be too strong.
At the same time, I shouldn’t have to hide what I can do. I debated joining this handstand challenge long and hard, because I was afraid some people might be turned off — sometimes students shy away from my classes because I have a reputation for being one of the stronger teachers (in fact, some people call me "The Beast!). I was worried that daily handstand pictures would be the death of my classes.
But eventually I decided that was fear, while the truth is that I love handstands. Why not take pictures of them? I practically do them every day anyway. What’s the difference? So I went for it. But there is some truth to the underlying theme of my hesitation. There is some merit to recognizing that there is such a thing as being too intense, too strong.
I've learned in the last year to ladle myself with compassion and kindness as often as I let myself dip into my strength and intensity. And while I have yet to make it to a restorative yoga class, it’s definitely on my radar. And in doing handstands daily, I have learned the pure necessity of taking good care of my joints, namely, my shoulders and my wrists, and in being mindful of my alignment and my needs.
4. It's important not to play the comparison game; uplift one another instead.
Teddy Roosevelt said it best when he said, "Comparison is the thief of joy." If you catch yourself tempted to compare, try a different path instead. Something more empowering. Something based on love.
5. People love pictures with babies in them.
This one is rather self-explanatory, and it always cracked me up. I don’t care if I did a handstand on the top of the Empire State Building — if I put a picture next to it of my two-year-old baby girl joining me in a handstand, that baby pic would trump the Cirque du Soleil pic every day and twice on Sundays. No questions asked. Hilarious.
6. Using social media in a powerful way means sharing openly and honestly — no matter what the pose.
There's always more to learn, there's always less to do and perfection is boring myth. Enough said.