Awesome Handstand=Advanced Yogi, Right?
The first time I encountered handstand in a yoga class I was literally offended. Handstand? In yoga??? So not relaxing, in my opinion. Handstand was an acrobatic/gymnastic thing. Duh. Thanks to the advent of social media I'm guessing most people wouldn't be surprised to be doing handstands in a yoga class. Or arm balances that seem to defy gravity or weird pretzely things with their bodies.
So, does being able to balance a handstand on a white sand beach while looking serene or overjoyed make you an advanced yogi? Maybe yes. Maybe no.
Here's the deal -there are a few things to keep in mind when looking at pics of people doing amazing yoga or pole poses before we can decide...
1. They could be in the amazement phase. I was 28 or 29 when I first did parsva bakasana. I was super stoked! My body just did some thing I never thought possible and had tried dozens of times and laughed out loud when the instructor demonstrated it because, yeah right, like that could ever be me. And then it WAS me. Holy cow, how awesome! I went home to my then boyfriend now husband, jumped up on the coffee table and showed him my new pose. It's exciting. You want to share, to celebrate. You want others to think maybe they could do something they never thought they could because you're doing something you never thought you could. I'm sure if there was such a thing as Instagram back then you'd have seen my first side crow over there.
2. Just because someone is doing something cool with their body does not mean they are experiencing yoga. Yoga means to yoke, to bring together body, mind and soul. Sometimes we're rocking an amazing posture on the outside while on the inside we're beating ourselves up over that burrito we had for dinner last night, or how we're wearing the wrong pants, or how we suck because our toes should be touching our head if we're going to be a perfect yogi, or how we so badly want to impress the teacher or whatever. That internal attack is a disconnect between mind and body. I've been there and yes, it is a normal part of the process of learning to yoke, create union and connection. Just something you can't tell is going on or not in a picture or in a live class for that matter. And trust me, you don't want any part of the train wreck that was my mind back in the day even as on the outside I was doing the splits with my arms over my head. Just know there is so much more to being an "advanced" yogi than impressive poses.
3. Intention. Unless someone says, the intention of this pic is....you really don't know if it's to show off, to celebrate and be excited, to inspire or whatever. Your reaction to those pictures says more about you than the picture says about the person in it. Are you irritated? Motivated? Ready to check another pose off your list cause if you can just balance your handstand like her your whole life will be perfect? (go back and read #2 again if you think that's true) Inspired? Think it's impossible? Happy for them? Want to take class with them? It's a great chance to go within and ask yourself why you're feeling something about that particular picture and move yourself deeper into your practice, your life and what truth you're aspiring to live.
4. An advanced yogi is one who realizes the poses are tools with many purposes. To take care of this amazing body the soul lives in. To learn to live skillfully inside the body and create a connection with it, to understand how it works so we can feel better on a day-to-day basis. An advanced yogi knows when to say when, that more isn't always more, there's no final pose so the one that works best on any given day is the best pose. An advanced yogi knows when to rest and when to go for it. She knows that there is never going to be a pose that suddenly makes everything else all right and that her value isn't based on doing poses, she is valuable because she is. An advanced yogi comes back to her mat over and over and over and over with curiosity, a sense of exploration and self-care, and a willingness to embrace repetition, boredom, elation, frustration, anger, joy and all the emotions the poses bring up. She can rock a challenging posture with the same skill, precision, and equanimity as a simple one and she knows the value of both - one is not better than the other. She knows part of who she is is her body so she cares of it and she knows part of who she is is so much more and she takes care of the more, too.
That brings us back to the question, does being able to rock a solid, balanced handstand (or any other pose) make someone an advanced yogi? We'll never know because a picture can never show you what's going on on the inside.
The choice is up to you: to focus on and obsess about what's going on in other people's pictures or to simply enjoy them for what they are, an amazing body doing amazing things and then dig deeper into your own heart, soul, and practice.
If you enjoyed or were inspired by what you read, please comment below, Like, Share, Pin and Tweet. With Gratitude, Cathy MA. Ed, E-RYT500
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