A Post by Emma Dines
“Is handstand the ultimate yoga pose?”
A yoga student recently asked me after class, “Is handstand the ultimate yoga pose?” This really surprised me because I try to say plainly in all of my classes that practicing yoga isn’t about achieving shapes with your body — it’s about being in a learning relationship with yourself and your body-mind’s capacities and limitations. In a recent class I described yoga as “truth-telling” and as “a practice of paying attention to the way that our physical and personal truth can shift and change from moment to moment”. The poses help us tell the truth to ourselves. Early on in the practice, or at the beginning of working with a pose, the truth is more black and white; either you are doing a handstand or you are not. But as the relationship with the pose deepens over time, subtle shades of grey begin to appear. It’s no longer about doing or not doing the pose, but about the quality of our experience in the pose. Am I bringing my whole self to this handstand practice? Am I underusing or overusing parts of my body to stay in it? How far do I want to go with my handstand? What does being upside-down mean to me?
Handstand is a really empowering pose — unless it’s not.
Standing on your hands is a lot like learning to stand on your feet and walk. When you learn to walk as a toddler there is a lot of falling, a lot of wobbling, and plenty of crying. But toddlers don’t give up, since they can see there is something they want after they master walking: mobility! When you try to stand on your hands as an adult there can be also be a lot of falling and wobbling, but the promise of handstand is less clear than the promise of walking. You might have a new party trick, but what else can you do with a handstand? If you get really skilled at it maybe you’ll have a new form of transportation, but what else?
For me, the promise of handstand is about what I can learn while I am upside-down.
- The different way that my brain and body processes movement in space.
- The feeling of my skeleton stacking and learning to bear weight in a new way.
- The multitudes of ways one can get upside-down.
- The playfulness that seems to be inherent in the effort.
Whether upside-down for you means having your feet on a wall or practicing balancing in the middle of the room, the invitation is the same: learn about yourself and practice telling the truth.
Join Emma for the last two nights of Handstands: The Mini-Series on Monday July 14, and 21, 7:30pm-9pm. Read more about what we’ll be focusing on each week here.
Emma Dines is the manager of Queen Street Yoga. She loves writing about yoga, visiting thrift stores and going for walks in the woods. She also loves cartwheeling, sewing and making her own kimchi.