Thursday, May 5, 2011

It's OK if your shoes aren't doing it...

A couple of months ago, a friend of mine posted the following You Tube video on Facebook:  Entitled The Tragedy of First Position, an adorable toddler ballerina becomes so consumed by trying to get her feet in first position that she misses the entire rest of the dance.  Funny how something as simple as a You Tube video can spark an epiphany.  "Aha!", I thought.  This is what's wrong with my yoga practice!  Let me explain...

I suck at handstands.  Actually, that's not entirely true.  I have a lovely handstand~ my shoulder platform is strong and stable, my core muscles are engaged, my joints are stacked, I press up confidently through the balls of my feet (the perfect 'floint' as Tracey Rich and Ganga White dub it) and gently massage the pads of my fingers into my sturdy Manduka mat.  I am beautifully balanced.  Until, that is, I move away from the wall.  And this has been my challenge for literally years.  Without the wall, my handstand never really gets off the ground.  It just doesn't make any sense to me.  Afterall, I have instructed countless students into successful handstands.  I have a strong, graceful practice of my own.  I do a mean headstand.  I can sit still and peacefully in a lengthy meditation.  I can do pincha and eka pada koundinyasana and flying pigeon and even mayurasana for goodness' sake, but I can't stick a darn handstand in the center of the room?  Seriously?  (A brief pause to apologize to my non-yogi readers who have absolutely no idea what they just read.  It suffices to say these are challenging poses). 

I know what you're thinking...'it's just fear holding you back'.  Well, OK, yeah, I don't like falling or making a spectacle of myself.  That said, I have lived alone in NYC.  I went to a midnight showing of Silence of the Lambs and walked home to an empty dorm room.  I moved across the country at age 25 with no place to live, no plan, and no job.  I have had 4 root canals and zip-lined, and now, despite terrible national success statistics, I am actually getting married and believe wholeheartedly that it is forever.  So, yes, I am cautious.  But fearful?  Not so much. 

You may also be thinking 'just go practice with so-and-so' or 'practice it on the beach' or 'just cartwheel out of it if you fumble' or 'visualize yourself doing it'.  Yep.  Tried all of that.  Short of hiring a hypnotist (and trust me, I have considered it), I feel as though I have tried everything.  And just my luck...handstand has become an incredibly popular pose in recent years in LA yoga classes.  I have become so angry and frustrated with myself over this pose that I have actually become sort of an anti-handstander.  Maybe it's like surfing:  it looks super cool when other people do it, but I just don't want to stand up on that thing with waves crashing over me.  My obsession with not being able to conquer this pose had actually begun to chip away at my confidence so badly that I was no longer enjoying practicing yoga at all.  I forgot about all that I could do and lamented constantly about what I cannot yet do.  The very discipline that always made me feel better suddenly made me nothing but sad and irritated.  I had lost the rest of the dance.  Until I saw that beautiful You Tube video...

I hope that little girl is still dancing.  And I still hope that one day I will magically float up into the perfect, wall-less handstand.  I am an optimistic girl.  After viewing that video, though, I thought, maybe it's ok that I need the wall.  Afterall, it's stable and helpful and supportive--who doesn't need more of that in life?  Maybe it's ok if everything is not all Virgo-perfect all the time.  Maybe not being able to get this pose is my lesson.  Maybe it's ok that my epitaph someday reads, "Lived a helluva great life.  Spent time with friends and family and animals.  But never did stick that handstand."  And maybe, in those immortal words of that random You Tube dance teacher, "It's OK if your shoes aren't doing it."  Words to live by indeed.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

A Weekend of Giving

Today is the Spring Equinox, and traditionally yogis across the globe ring in the new season with a ritual known as "Yoga Mala", the performing of 108 sun salutations.  The Mala's repetitive movement leaves practitioners in an almost trance-like state, clearing the mind for meditation on intentions for the coming months.  It is a Spring Cleaning of sorts~perhaps more of a Spring Clearing for the body and mind.

This past weekend, I was blessed with the opportunity to participate in not one, but two, phenomenal charity events.  On Saturday, I team-taught a flow class benefiting Operation Shanti with several other amazing South Bay yoga teachers.  My friend, Garth Hewitt, organized the event after a trip to India inspired him to help the non-profit organization build an orphanage for children in Mysore, the birthplace of modern Yoga.  Over the course of an afternoon, the event raised over $8,000 via class fees, raffle tickets, and auction items.

On Sunday, my fiance and I sat at two computers, simultaneously bidding on Ebay auction items for another friend's charitable foundation.  My dear friend Rachel Tiep-Daniels, an artist formerly at Dreamworks and currently working for Blue Sky studios, volunteered at an orphanage in Ghana a few years ago.  Returning home, she felt compelled to help this community of beautiful children she had grown so close to over just a few short weeks.  In partnership with a fellow artist, she formed the Picture Book Project Foundation.  Their most recent fundraising project was "Art Blocks for Ghana", an Ebay auction featuring original drawings and paintings from (I'm guesstimating) over a hundred talented artists from all of the major animation studios~Dreamworks, Pixar, Disney, Blue Sky, etc.  The auction ended on Sunday, culminating in tens of thousands of dollars raised for the education of these children in Ghana and, no doubt, many (including us!  yippee!) very happy donors who are the proud owners of some fabulous new artwork!

This weekend reminded me, yet again, of the immense power that one inspired person can have, if they simply follow through on their intentions and ask those around them for assistance.  I think that if we are to change this world for the better, it really has to begin there~with hardworking, caring, inspired individuals and generous friends around them willing to lend support.  Perhaps as we begin this Spring season, we should be asking ourselves, "What inspires me?"  "How can I contribute?"  "And who can I ask for help?"  One of my favorite quotes is Margaret Mead's "Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful citizens can change the world.  Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has."  Happy Spring, friends!

For further info on these two awesome non-profit organizations, please visit and credit:  Rachel Tiep-Daniels. All rights reserved.
Simply Yours Designs Cute Blogger Templates