Handstand Practice and Gluten Attachment

Let me tell you, folks. It's all yoga, all the time around here. I've been keeping up with 4-6 studio classes plus 4 or 5 home practice sessions each week since the beginning of teacher training. This weekend began with a studio class and home practice on Friday, extended home practice on Saturday night, then back to the studio for a class right away this morning, then I came home, rolled out my mat again and worked on my inversions for an hour, followed up by 30 minutes of pranyama and meditation.

All this work is already cleaning up my practice. The vinyasas, especially, are going through a transformation. The Suryas we're being taught are much slower than those I had always practiced. For example, rather than jumping back from utanasana to chaturanga in one exhalation, we jump back to a high plank, inhale the shoulders forward of the wrists, then exhale to chaturanga coming onto the very tips of the toes. Also, in the Surya Bs, instead of stepping the foot between the hands and coming up to warrior I in a single inhale, we exhale the foot between the hands, then inhale the body up. It's all very slow and deliberate. At first, it was awkward, and the 6 suryas with which I begin each home practice felt like an eternity, but now I've really come to appreciate the slower, more meditative motions of the vinyasa. It's done a lot to extend my breath and strengthen the shoulders and core.

My handstand practice, on the other hand, has reached a point of stagnation. I just can't seem to get any closer to coming away from the wall, but I did a lot of handstand work today and came up with a couple of exercises that seemed to do some good things for me.

First, I just practiced several half-handstands, with the knees tucked into belly. Doing this near the wall, it was easy to just push back off of the wall and come into a stable half-handstand. I was able to hold these for at least a few breaths each, and felt the action strongly in my lower abdomen, like my belly was being sucked into my pelvis. It also helped me to find the right action in the shoulders. After this, I began a series of kicking into handstands first with both legs at once, donkey kick-style, coming down on an exhale, then kicking up on the next inhalation with the right leg, then with the left leg, then with both legs together again, holding each handstand for a few breaths, then coming down to rest in child's pose before starting the series all over again. I did this five times. After the first couple of rounds, I started to find a good rhythm, stopped thinking so much about the mechanics of the kicks, and began just inhaling the body up. It was pretty cool. Exhausting, but cool. I'll definitely be trying that again.

And finally, I have a confession to make: I failed the gluten-free challenge. My teachers would be so disappointed. I'm sorry, but I just couldn't do it. I love bread! There. I said it. I love it, and yes, I would marry it if I could. So there.

How's that for non-attachment?


  1. Haha, you make me laugh!! I LOVE bread too. :D When I did my YTT intensive I failed our 'week of silent retreat' - silence at all times outside of the classroom. Not only did I chat endlessly with my roomate but we also slipped out of the retreat centre and went shopping. :D

    The great thing about being a grown-up is you can make your own choices, and really, nobody has the right to judge you for them. You learn about yourself, and a teacher shouldn't want more.

    On the surya's, I think this is way cool that they are teaching you this! I learned them the way you were practicing, but as I taught I've eventually developed exactly the same methodology you are being taught, because I found that most students couldn't keep up. It takes a long time to get those long, slow breaths, and the result is generally fast, sloppy vinyasas. Nobody benefits from that!

    I have also found that with true beginners, older students and people with poor hip flexibility, stepping the foot forward between the hands is a huge challenge. So I either leave them in a sort of lunge for a few breaths to give people time to bring the foot up to the proper place, or I skip the B's entirely and do the warriors later on, from standing. I saw too many people with awful knee alignment straining their backs to rise up in Warrior I, only to come right back down again.

    Over and over I learn the same lesson - it's not about the asanas. It's about the practice.

  2. gluten free is only good if gluten makes you feel bad. if it makes you feel good, please keep eating it. for the sake of humanity.

  3. La Gitane - That's interesting that you found this version of the surya on your own. It's definitely more accessible, but at the same time, more strengthening, I think.

    Emma - I have no plans to eliminate wheat from my diet in the future. These nutritional challenges are more self-discipline/awareness exercises than dietary guidelines.

  4. I agree! When you try to have things go to fast you end up with sloppy, injury-prone vinyasas. NOT what a teacher wants to see in her class!

  5. This post made me laugh! And I'm loving your total immersion into yoga. I would love to spend weeks like that, and I am not surprised your body is soaking it up.

    Sort of like La Gitane, during Sun B, I bring my students to a low lunge and then take a second to tell them their knee should be over their ankle. Then I invite them to walk their hands back to meet their front foot if they just can't get their front foot up between the hands.