At the present time, I cannot do a headstand in my yoga practice.Whenever I remove bobby pin and ponytail holder and place the top of my head on the smooth wooden floor of the dimly lit classroom, forearms bracing, it feels like the weight of my body will surely accordion my neck like a used up coke can, causing my head to also combust. I'm pretty sure this will happen. I try to do the pose, but can't seem to achieve it. And so, I have heard many an exasperated teachers' sighs.
"Try again. Walk your legs as close to your head as possible. Straight legs. No, straight legs."
"Ok, take child's pose" (aka forget it).
This used to make me feel bad, but then I realized - this is my practice and I do what's right for me. No one is going to make me feel like a failure because I can't do everything and look like a beautiful swan while doing it (Some women do. They really do).
So here, I'm putting pressure on myself to do headstands, forearm stands, and handstands. I think about why I can't do them yet and the fact that I'm still fairly new at this, that my upper body strength isn't as strong as it needs to be for these poses, and of course that I'm scared that I'm going to crack my neck or dislocate one of my very small but precious vertebrae. This fear keeps my feet on the ground and my head in the sky. Right side up. The way that gravity intended.
Then I meet Liz. Now, she is a teacher. A guru, really. After class, other teachers chat and socialize - about summer vacations, babies, the latest yoga gear. Meanwhile, Liz can be found demonstrating a pose to a student after class. Explaining the physics of the body. Sharing a quote from one of her gurus. She is clearly passionate about what she does and learns everything she can in order to be able to pass her wisdom onto her students.
Liz reminded me how much I appreciate people who throw themselves into their subject. Read, reflect, discuss with others. People who passionately work to know as much as they can and then share with others who want and/or need the information. People who do it because they must. It's who they are and it's like breathing. They don't do the work because they get paid, but because the pursuit in and of itself is something they adore and want in their lives.
So while others have given up on me, after class, Liz weaves through students to get to me and says, "Love, do you have time now? I want to talk with you about your headstand. Let's try and figure it out." She brings me into an empty studio and we experiment with cushions and blankets and realize that either my arms need to be stronger, or my neck needs to be shorter (!). Somehow, my arms don't hold the weight enough, so there's an abnormal amount of pressure that goes right to my head, which comes too far past my bent arms when I'm attempting a headstand. How would I have ever figured that out on my own? I wouldn't have. It's because Liz, totally focused in bringing her experience and knowledge to bear, wouldn't have overlooked a struggling student. Her years of practice and learning all come together for the benefit of her students today.
Liz is a guru and I thank her for showing me how powerful it can be when we learn all that we can, in the name of guiding and giving to others.