Friday, October 14, 2011

I Can Do This Job Standing on my Head

Ok, so this is handstand, not headstand.  I do know the difference—there is the occasional (read: often) right/left mix-up, but I’m pretty good with correctly identifying head- v. handstand.  We’ll call this one artistic license.

I have the great opportunity to use headstand in my position as a yoga teacher and in my big people job.  It is one of the most useful tools for self-analysis.  Better than personality tests (woo-hoo, I’m an INTJ.  How does that get me a raise?).  Better than “Tell me about a time when…”  Headstand allows us as students to safely observe how we approach radical shifts in our environment, how we react to being pushed out of our comfort zones, and how we approach change. 

I teach headstand very early in my classes.  Sun salutations first, headstand second. 

And always, ALWAYS we practice in the center of the room.

The reason for this is very simple.  It is not the wall’s practice—it is your practice. #1: If your feet are touching the wall, you are not safely supporting your weight in the pose. #2: We carry all the answers within ourselves; nothing external is needed.  The secret to practicing headstand in the center of the room is to create your own definition of headstand.  Not everyone is ready to (or should) work into the complete expression of the pose.  Crown of the head down, hips above head, hands/arms/elbows pressed into the ground to set the shoulders correctly and hold the majority of the body’s weight is headstand.  Sitting or standing, with head, neck and spine aligned, practicing mula and uddiyana bandhas is headstand.  Crashing against a wall, puffing like a red-faced Thomas the Tank Engine, grasping the back of your head for dear life is NOT headstand.

To enter this pose, you first must identify where you are with your practice. Secondly you need to follow the teacher’s instructions (whether you are in class or not.  Even at home, with no one looking, FOLLOW YOUR TEACHER’S INSTRUCTIONS.)  Thirdly, work to where you can.  Not to where others are.  Not to where you think you should be.  Not to where you worked yesterday.  Work to where you can now, this session.

Yes, as you learn in the center of the room you will fall.  It will be funny.  I know, I fell quite often when I was learning.  I still fall if I am not paying attention.  I have fallen when trying to demonstrate how to do it in a room full of students. The students laughed, I laughed. It’s ok to fall, it means you are trying.   

Falling down or not being able to go up are not the enemies.  Not trying and acquiescing to defeat before starting are the enemies.

My big people job is in Career Services.  I have the unique opportunity to meet with Seniors in their last semester as part of their History and Cultures of Asia class.  I put them all into headstand.  This gives me great insight as to how to work with the students on their career management plan.  Some go for it.  Others try meekly but not really.  Others resist loudly.  (Honestly, same as in a yoga class.) I let the students know that at the end of the semester their world will be changing, their responsibilities will increase, and they will not have “senior” status.  They need to approach and face these realizations.  Headstand provides a laboratory to experiment.

If you ever interview with me, I will put you in a headstand. Does not matter which side of the table I am on. (Yes, I realize who some of my anonyms readers are.  Or who they should be J)  Say you’re looking to effect change; you think out of the box? Let’s test that.  I will know in an instant how you take direction, confront the unknown, and operate on risk.

Are you ready to turn your world upside down?  Tomorrow (Saturday 15 October) explore headstand and Patañjali’s Yoga Sutras with me at Hudson River Yoga.  1:30-3:30.

See you on the mat!

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