Several years ago I had my first chance at attempting a handstand. Though a seasoned Yogi and well versed with headstands (that is head-stand, not hand-stand,) I never before tried that pose. Taking a class at another studio, the instructor had us all go against the wall and come up to an Adho-Mukha-Vrksasana (that is just fancy way of saying a handstand, or a more common way; that is, if you happen to be speaking Sanskrit.) Noticing my hesitation, the instructor came by my side and explained how it should be done – against the wall with three leg kicks. Locking my elbows and spacing my hands as explained, I followed her directions and, indeed, was able to raise my legs and hold the position briefly; a sense of elation.
Later that week I decided to practice this new asana at my home. Repeating the steps, I kicked my legs up. But, alas, I didn’t lock my right elbow and instantly found myself collapsing to the floor, bumping my head. Though no real injury was inflicted, at least none beyond my existing damaged brain, I was unable to perform the handstand again. For a long while, whenever I positioned myself to coming up on my hands, cold sweat poured down my shaky arms. Turns out that even though I logically understood the reason behind my earlier failure, my body didn’t agree with putting myself in a position that might place me at risk. It took many weeks of repeated attempts until I finally came up again; slowly allowing my mind to comprehend there is no real danger.
Turns out that my body has a memory of its own; deeper and different than the rational one. It left me wondering what else my body remembers that I am not aware of. What other actions I do not take, excusing it by different reasons, while in fact the root cause is buried somewhere deep in my past; covered by layers of denial. Maybe a bad fall I had as a four year old, when, at kindergarten, playing a climb and jump off a small ramp, the child in line behind me, impatient to get her turn, pushed me over, resulting in me being rushed to the clinic so my bleeding head can be stitched; maybe that incident, all but forgotten, prompt me to fear heights at a certain age, a fright I ultimately got over, though not without effort. And maybe some other reservations I have regarding certain people, or concerning various situations I encounter in life, are mostly a result of other such scars, albeit emotional ones. How much am I performing of my own “free-will” and how much are my actions dictated by a past I have no control over?
Not to discard hidden memories and hard-earned life-lessons, to what extent are these experiences preventing me from maximizing my dormant potential? I have no answers, just observations. It brings me back to the one good question worth asking whenever I act in a manner I judge to be an automated response: what is the meaning of this? At times the answer may evoke an insight; at other times it might allow me to overcome a concealed obstacle, and maybe, just maybe, nourish a little personal growth.
Learned from: a more recent fall while attempting a headstand on unstable snowy ground.