Invisible handstand

Some months ago I remember playing a private game in class, seeing if I could remain invisible to the teacher. I remember feeling smug that I’d got through the standing sequence without attracting any attention, while the students around me were given hands on assists or specific instruction. At the very moment when I was congratulating myself for managing myself so well (both for my powers of invisibility as well as sufficiently competent asana) the teacher was suddenly there by my mat and treated me to a series of her trademark deep assists. It was almost as though she knew my mental state and had been leaving me alone while my guard was up. But at this point I was ready to receive this attention, she helped me find places I didn’t know were possible in my body and I could feel the resistance softening under her hands.

How does she read a room so well that she’s there at the right moment, the moment I perhaps need help, even when I don’t think I want it?

My regular teacher is often equally magic it seems to me. He spots the moment I’m about to leave a challenging pose out of confusion or frustration or he lifts me out of complacency in a familiar pose by bringing my attention and curiosity to something new when I was happily hanging out without doing too much.

This week I spent most of the time in class wanting to fly under his radar. We’ve had properly hot weather in UK recently and my body has felt really different and I wanted the space to explore that. Some postures arrived more easily to my warmer muscles; other aspects of practice were more difficult simply from the sweaty conditions, slippery skin, humid atmosphere, sweat in my eyes. I loved it all!

Then in inversions practice more unexpected magic. I’m still at the baby stage of kicking up the wall for handstand, exploring a lighter lift as I figure out how to use bandha and breath rather than all muscularity and momentum. This evening I was playing with lifting one foot and then another away from the wall. And each time there was a tentative balance; for the first time I started to feel how the whole posture would come together, a natural integrity of the body rather than individual muscular actions consciously deployed. It was one of those moments of total yoga excitement, when I feel foolishly proud of my physical endeavours. I found myself looking round for my teacher, wanting to share this moment.

Eventually he came over to me and asked how it was going. “Well, I just did the best handstand ever and you weren’t even watching” — that was the reply I wanted to give! I felt like the little kid who realised their dad turned away the very first time they tried their bike without stabilisers! But really I didn’t really feel petulant or disappointed. I’m more amused at watching the games my mind likes to play. Hide and seek with the yoga teacher, first wishing myself invisible and then craving attention! It’s hilarious how I really wanted him to share my excitement, when the thing I value most about him is that he’s unperturbed by anything, he refuses to make a drama of anything I do or say, endlessly modeling to me how to stay present no matter what’s going on or how tumultuous it seems in the moment. So talk about wanting to have my yoga cake and eat it!

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