Damn handstands

Doug Swenson

I recently went to a two-and-a-half hour yoga workshop with Doug Swenson.  Doug teaches Ashtanga yoga, a style I don’t normally practice, and the workshop was pretty advanced.

On top of that, with a busy life and two young kids, my own yoga practice has become intermittent.  So maybe I’d have been better off going to a regular class, but there I was.  And by about 10 minutes into the workshop, it was clear that about half the students were very regular / advanced practitioners: handstands and crazy balances and strength, flexibility and grace abounded.

And so began a quiet, almost inaudible, pernicious voice-over in my own head, “Well, this is clearly all they do…practice yoga all day long.  Don’t they have other priorities?  Who does she think she is anyway, showing off like that at the start of class?”  Over and over and over and over, getting louder and louder and louder.

That voice in my head is the voice of fear.   Fear of not being good enough.  Fear of being embarrassed and of standing out.  It’s the voice of adolescence.  It’s the voice that worries about fitting in.  It’s the voice that thinks others are judging, maybe even laughing just a little bit.

This voice is a prison.

And it’s so powerful because no one else hears it.  So you can pretend that it’s not out there, that it doesn’t have you in its clutches, that it’s not directing your choices, even when it is.

In the yoga class, I kept on breathing, I acknowledged the voice and the fear, and it (mostly) lost its power.  Not completely, but mostly.

And that’s a start.

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3 thoughts on “Damn handstands

  1. So I saw “yoga workshop,” and immediately thought, “I’ll bet it’s not Ashtanga.” Then, damn, it was.

    It was the same voice you were calling out in your post. I used to be an avid backpacker. Appalachian Trail and the works. 16-18 mile days. Then kids. Then more work responsibilities. This Sunday morning, I went for a 45 minute walk. A walk! And today, my legs are still sore.

    It’s like that movie, What About Bob?. Baby step to the door. Baby step to the street…

    Great post, Sasha!

  2. have you read the bene gesserit fear litany?

    I must not fear.
    Fear is the mind-killer.
    Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration.
    I will face my fear.
    I will permit it to pass over me and through me.
    And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path.
    Where the fear has gone there will be nothing.
    Only I will remain.

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