I have never been a gymnastic type. I was never one for somersaults or cartwheels or handstands. I spent my youth smacking fuzzy yellow balls inside a white rectangle. Bu if you go to enough yoga classes, eventually you are going to have to do an inversion. I’ve never managed to get into headstand or handstand, so when I saw a handstand workshop at Pure that was being run by Matt Giordano, who I’ve taken a couple of classes with before, I signed up. And knowing that really you need at least two people to handstand with, I made Steph sign up as well.
Picture of Matt courtesy of his website
The workshop started with some singing and group love circle stuff. Yeaaahhhhh…. so not my thing. Then we did a quick and exceedingly brutal flow to get us ready for handstand. I was dying only 10 minutes into class. This was not going to be a walk in the park. Then we got into some partner and group work exercises to get us set up into handstand.
The first one was all about fingertips. I totally sucked at this one, probably because I tried to push up using only my fingertips, and letting the rest of my body be a wet dishrag. Anyway, bygones… We did one for keeping our legs together (I rocked at that!), and a partner downward dog exercise that was a challenge for me because my hamstrings are cranky at the best of times, and having them stretch out while balancing my feet one someone’s back was just going to be trouble. And then we got into handstand time!
We worked in groups of three – handstander, hip-grabber, and leg-flipper. No, those are not the technical terms that Matt suggested. Each time we would work on different elements of the handstand, including kicking up, adjusting, and controlled falling (cartwheel). We got plenty of hands-on attention from the various instructors in the room, as well as support from our little groups.
I remember going up and feeling a sharp pain in my left elbow. After lots of careful cross-examining of my arms and shoulders, apparently I am manifesting fear in my elbow. That’s right: my body knows when I’m scared, even when I’m not willing to admit it to myself. Don’t you hate it when yoga uncovers your truths for you!?
However, knowing that there wasn’t anything structurally wrong with my handstanding, I made sure to keep trying. Knowing that you were in a safe supported place with people catching your hips and holding you up was crucial, because I’ve had such little experience with being inverted that it just plain feels weird. Regular yoga people – does it ever stop feeling weird?
The whole class was based on free-standing handstands, with no wall support. Of course, not all of us have two other people just sitting around ready to support our inversion endeavors, so we were given one exercise to use a wall to develop our handstands, without using the wall as a crutch, so I’m going to try and incorporate it during the odd free moment around the house. I’m sure the dog will be thrilled!
Photograph from Athleta, and a full article on this pose is available here
Even though it was extremely scary, I had a great time in the class. Matt is a great teacher, and one who is very good at talking through the journey of a pose. The workshop had multiple different levels of abilities attending, and lots of people coming back for their second or third time. I will definitely be back over the coming months to get over my fear and develop my skills. Because let’s face it, handstands look pretty cool!