The Power of Flipping Everything On Its Head

by Hannah Greenstreet

Beyond the Western culture of yoga that glorifies handstands on social media and places them on a pedestal as the ultimate goal of asana practice, there is a powerful relationship that opens when we develop an intimate practice with ourselves and inversions. Adho Mukha Vrksasana, the Sanskrit term for handstand, is an advanced pose that can be accessible to all if we break it down in pieces and devote steady practice to progressing. There are a few principles that drive why I personally choose to stand on my head and/or hands at least once a day (or as many times as I can fit in). 

First, focus. When we challenge ourselves enough to literally hold the weight of our body contrary to gravity, we have to conjure up some serious focus. When getting upside down, we can’t check out or think about our to-do list. We are so incredibly present, eyes focused, connecting to where we are in space. What I cherish about the focus required to sustain a head/handstand is that it offers the chance to be totally alive in your body. 

Second, clarity. When we get upside down, it gives us a personal moment of invigorating perspective. It’s like we take ourselves on a personal rollercoaster where we enliven our spirit and see our reality through a different lens. We debunk the ego’s myth that life is exactly how we see it and can recreate our relationship to the world around us from a wholehearted place. 

Third, rejuvenation. This breaks down to the literal flush to the blood and cells created when we fling our legs up toward the sky. It is healing for our physical bodies to break up the order of day to day functioning and find renewal; kind of like internal housecleaning. Physical and mental revitalization is a beneficial result of establishing an inversion practice.

Lastly, and maybe the most obvious, balance. Getting upside down in space calls for ample balance, which is the main reason why inverted poses involve so much practice. When we remove the expectation of achieving the ‘Western-worshipped’ handstand and simply hone in on balancing our body’s relationship to the space around us, we uncover the process of building strength and balance. 

Adho Mukha Vrksasana demands regular practice; it takes commitment to surpass the fears of falling or failing as strength is cultivated to sustain a handstand. It requires the motivation to keep trying and using props to help properly learn how to hold a head/handstand. It’s an ever-evolving challenge worth including in your asana practice. There is infinite opportunity for all yoga students. When we unite our focus and balance through consistent practice, we gain the clarity and rejuvenation that help us illuminate grace and ease within ourselves. We connect to our mat and the earth. Ultimately, we can discover peace and comfort in the fresh perspectives when take the risk to flip everything on its head. Join me on July 15 and 29 for two inversion-specific workshops and gain simple techniques to access inversions at any level.

Spring Ayurveda & Flow Yoga with Rachel Meisler

Bring me your tired, your stressed out, overwhelmed, yearning to recover from injury and live pain-free!  Yoga provides an all-inclusive and welcoming place to work on your issues, whatever they may be.  Perhaps you think about going to yoga class but hesitate because of challenges you’re coping with in your body, mind, or emotions.  Actually, NOW is the only time we have, so this is a great time.  And, yoga is completely adaptable to honor and respect special conditions.  

If you are unfamiliar with Ayurveda, this ancient living science - traditional Indian medicine - is a thriving holistic health care system which includes yoga, nutrition, and lifestyle approaches to healing.  Ayurveda and yoga, hand in hand, offer guidelines for our everyday lives and realistic, down-to-earth practices to improve our selves, relationships, work, and enjoyment; nurture our wellbeing; and promote longevity. 

My Sunday at 5:30pm Flow and Wednesday at 4pm Ayurveda Hatha classes adjust according to needs of the students present and consider the other current states.  These conditions exist on multiple levels: for the individual, the community, planet, and universe.  For example, the weather on any given day is a state that we experience on all of these levels simultaneously.  We may therefore choose a more grounding practice when needed, and a more uplifting practice at another time of day, month, season, year, lifetime, era, or epoch!  This is the essence of the application of Ayurveda in Yoga.  Furthermore, as in any yoga practice, the individual has ultimate power and is encouraged to self-regulate along the continuum of effort, discipline, and surrender, creating unique experiences within common poses.

With springtime’s sporadically warm and cold weather and wet heavy flows of snowmelt, we may feel heavy, lazy, overwhelmed, resistant to change, or in need of a push.  Ignite the fire of a yoga practice to burn off winter’s accumulated toxins and melt away stagnation, breaking through damns of energy to allow the natural flow.  

Perhaps if you are in balance, you notice as the days grow longer, you feel more motivated, curious, or inspired.  This is the perfect time to return to yoga or to begin fresh.  Like a seed buried in the dark earth, fed by the snow, and called by the penetrating warmth of the sun to break open and sprout, we may struggle through the aches of cracking open as we grow.  But it is only via this process of courageous transformation that we are ever able to truly bloom and be our most beautiful selves.  

Yoga is a vast body of knowledge, an ocean of wisdom, with countless approaches, variations, and endless room for growth.  Particularly if you feel stuck in a rut in your life somehow, now may be the time to break from the routine and try something new.  

As both yoga and Ayurveda summon the awareness that we are part of Nature, we discover the heart of our own true being in these traditions.  We begin to live more in tune with the rhythms of the universe, bringing us the sense of fulfillment that manifests in contentment.  We wake up with the sunrise and shift our schedules and activities as the seasons change.

Come as you are in this moment, and open yourself to your great potential.  Give yourself the opportunity for a new life, at home in your own body, to embody your dreams, and not just survive but to blossom and thrive, right now. 

Feel free to contact Rachel with any questions, concerns, for a private class or consultation, or just to talk about yoga over a cup of tea.  You can find her at the Tahoe Yoga Shala or through her website, OceanAyurveda.com.