“life is all about figuring it out”
“courage is required to change our minds when we realize that we are merely instruments of it’s will and it is HIS will we ought to fulfill”
“there is no difference between the sea and the waves. When a wave swells, it is made of water. When it breaks against the sand it is also made of water. Everything and everybody is the same, this is the mystery and the end”
In the following I reflect on my own practice of doing a handstand. I chose to write a little something on this topic, in hopes to shed a light on how the practice of Pilates and the practice of doing a handstand are very similar.
A couple reasons why PILATES and HANDSTANDS are similar…
- It takes time, practice, trust and a lot of courage!
- It requires a lot of core strength but more importantly awareness of your structure(optimal posture) and how you need to not only stack your joints (hands/shoulders/ribs cage/ pelvic bowl/ankles) but also how to integrate your arm bones in your back.
- The more you push the floor away with your hands the more you pull up and experience more lift and length in your whole body(aka 2-way stretch).
- if you hug your mid-line you will better succeed at maintaining your balance.
- the deeper the breath the more you will be able to sustain a longer lifted strong posture.
I could keep going as I truly love going upside down and probably do it at least once a day (several/day if I am in Hawaii enjoying he beach:)). My family knows that handstands just make me feel better! Please know that I understand handstands are not for everyone, as there are always exceptions, however just the practice of imagining yourself balancing upside down can teach you a lot if you think about what is required. For me, practicing handstands has been one of my best teachers in figuring out what my body needs more of to balance as one piece!
MY journey doing a handstand started after I saw Pontus do one up against a wall as part of his push-up exercise routine (we were just newly weds at the time). I thought to myself, that is so amazing, and thought I would love to be able to do that! I tried, but completely collapsed on the ground after trying to kick up several times. Not too long after that experience my Anusrara yoga teacher at that time in Des Moines Iowa(Brett Berlin-Scott) started having the class practice handstands in most if not all her classes. I remember dreading this portion of the class (in the beginning), as I was one of the only one(in the beginning) who could not get my feet up and over my head. I was very embarrassed especially as I was also probably the youngest in the class(24 at the time). In fact, I believe several times in class I made a point to go to the bathroom just to have an excuse not to participate in that portion of the class. However with more practice, understanding of body mechanics and a courageous determined spirit I was committed to learning how to do a handstand. Therefore, it wasn’t long until I was able to kick up into some contortion of a handstand resembling what you call a “banana back.” Fast forward several more years of practice and I am able to pull myself up into a handstand that is strong, connected, and resembles one piece.
Currently I enjoy doing a handstand dropping into a backbend and back up to standing. I am working now on moving from a backbend to handstand. WHY some of you may ask? Because it feels good and i’m having fun!
I believe that strengthening my center, learning more about body mechanics, but most importantly, understanding the following ideas(principles) was a huge piece in my success in achieving a handstand. I believe some of my biggest lessons were the following:
1 – Prioritize length and space before you connect and engage.
It’s not about having strong arms and shoulders, it’s more about having an open chest, and have enough mobility in the shoulders to connect the arms bones in the socket to stabilize!
2 – Every part/piece counts; whole body awareness.
The more you engage and press down deliberately with all your finger pads and finger knuckles, you’ll have more success in balancing and also creating more length up through the rest of your body.
3 – HUG YOUR MID-LINE.
Isometric energy between hands and triceps. Squeeze your inner thighs up your inner foot like crazy.
4 – Always a 2-way stretch.
Root to rise. From the focal point in your heart, push down through your hands and in opposition to this reach up and lift through your torso, legs and feet!
5 – Breathe
Use inhales to engage muscles and pull energy from peripheral parts(feet and hands) into the focal point of the heart center. Use exhales to reach out and extend more length through your bones from the center of your heart back to peripheral parts. Keep it big and bright. The bigger the breath, the more opportunity to create inner space and therefore length!
6 – Attitude
I think you all can agree when I say, having the right attitude can definitely make all the difference.
Now when someone asks you what is Pilates? I hope you think about HANDSTANDS and all that is required! This to me is Pilates! It’s interesting to me because I find most people forget to think of how their core connects to the rest of their body, as standing well (handstand upside down:)) can strengthen your abdominals! It’s not about isolating muscle groups, it’s rather about integrating the body in one unit. If you have read my reflections I am sure you know what I mean. My goal in teaching Pilates is to help you build your own awareness of your body as a whole and help you put your pieces together. I hope my instruction and classes encourage you to listen and believe in yourself. How can YOU position yourself in the most optimal balanced way to experience ultimate function and integration in and out of our body?
As you see this can be a lot to ask. I do my best to be encouraging, as it does get better and my regulars(grateful for you!) are my proof.:) A committed Pilates practitioner knows there is always so much going on and to be aware of. This takes a lot of patience and practice to get better at recognizing and after a while it is second nature, however don’t get too comfortable as just with life there is always going to be something more to learn, and pay attention to. The hope is that you stay empowered and on top of the “waves of life.” The waves relentlessly pound sometimes and it can be hard to take a breath. Stay with it…you’ll ride it soon.
Here’s to feeling more connected to ourselves in the new year. I hope its’s fulfilling, positive, bright, and beautiful!
PILATES – Wednesday 8:30-9:25
YOGA – Monday 10:45am-11:45am
*classes at Community Fitness – Flow studio