There was only one time I wanted to cry after yoga. It wasn’t because I hurt myself, it was because I couldn’t do a headstand. I was at a yoga studio here in Los Angeles (it shall remain nameless), and we all were sent to the wall to do headstands. I went even though I can’t do them but, hey, maybe today? So there I am, doing what I do, which is stick my butt in the air and get it nowhere near the wall, when the instructor comes over. He says he’ll do what lots of yogis too, grab my legs and give me the little push to get me over the top. Sounds great, right?
Half a second after my feet left the ground I freaked the fuck out. And I do not say freak the fuck out to exaggerate. My entire body went into Defcon 1 and I started saying, “Get me down, get me down, get me down!” He got me down. I got through the rest of practice, drove home, and almost cried. My boyfriend looked at me and asked, “Why do they do headstands if so many people can’t do them.” I responded, “Lots of people can do them, just not me.”
So to you, person in the yoga class who can’t do a headstand, know this. I can’t do one. I most likely will never be able to do one, and that’s OK. I still do yoga.
Before you start telling me about how you can do a headstand and there’s hope for me with practice (ha!) and time (double ha!) and patience (lolz), let me acknowledge that I have a body that was not built for yoga. My hamstrings are wound up so tight that I lose the ability to touch my toes if I skip stretching them for a few days. My hips are high, tight, and narrow, so their range of motion is pretty pathetic. My arms are so hyperextended, naturally, that I’m in a constant state of reminding myself to bend them so I don’t inflame my tendons, again.
And yet I love doing yoga. It’s given me lots of things: the ability to touch my toes, a place to jump around and work shit out after a bad day, new friends, arm strength, a large collection of yoga pants. But I’ll also never be great at it. Some poses, for me, will always require props. It’s quite possible I will never have the ability to get my hips high enough and close enough to the wall to safely elevate my legs into a headstand. And that’s OK.
I keep saying that’s OK because that’s so easy to forget that while doing yoga, even when the instructor says it over and over again. Because there’s gonna be some asshole (wait, that’s not zen to call them an asshole) ... some other yogi in the room who is nailing that pose. Perhaps the instructor is also doing the pose and doing it gracefully, with such ease, that even though they says, “It’s no big deal that I can do this,” it still feels like a big deal that they can do it. American competitiveness is hard to leave off the yoga mat.
So here’s what I do. I think about my first yoga class. I couldn’t do anything in my first few yoga classes, I even had to put a block under my butt just to sit up with a straight back. I really could not touch toes, it wasn’t even close. And I think about the poses I can do now and how that must look to someone who is like me, back then, going, “Who the hell is that bitch and how come she can do crow pose and I can’t?” Holy crap, now I’m that bitch! (insert inspirational yoga poster here).
So whatever you are doing in yoga is better than that first day in yoga. And that is a win. I know there aren’t supposed to be wins in yoga, but who are we kidding? This is America. We like winning. You are winning yoga. I promise you, you are winning yoga.
So I still do yoga, but at a different studio than my near headstand disaster. They don’t do headstands as much at my new one, and that is just fine by me.