This morning, I woke up earlier than I tend to on a weekend. I could hear birds outside, but with the exception of a few dogs being taken for their early morning walk, my neighborhood still felt quiet and asleep. I always love it when I manage to wake up early- it feels like I am stealing time, so I thought, what better way to use it than to get in a really good yoga practice. I admit that lately, my practice has fallen into a bit of a rut- but today, I felt motivated to really, truly practice rather than just go through the motions of the sequences I normally do.
I laid out my mat and opened up my blinds so that I could see the street and sidewalk, wet from the rain that had passed during the night. Then I got on my mat and began. I pushed myself more than I usually do when it is just me, and it felt really good. My left wrist didn't protest too much when I went into plank pose, and after a few sun salutations, the stiffness left completely. Even though the air was slightly cool, I was building up a lot of heat on my own and was thankful for the breeze coming in through the window. It was one of those practices where everything made me feel good and strong, so when I reached the end of my vinyasa sequences, I had an idea: what about headstand?
When my RA first began, my yoga practice took a huge hit. It practically disappeared, and when I could practice, I mainly did restorative poses, and that was it. Getting up and down off the floor was taxing enough of a workout (actually, so was getting out of bed). But slowly, I managed to build my practice back up over time, and poses that I had thought would be off limits forever like caturanga, plank and even crow pose, slowly became options again over the last few years as I've gotten stronger and my RA has receded.
There was only one pose that still had that permanent 'off limits' label on it: headstand. Back when I was in PT, my physical therapist had put the kabosh on practicing headstand...ever. Given that my cervical spine had been a site of pretty bad inflammation, it was completely understandable, and I have heeded his advice all these years later, even though my neck (knock on wood) hasn't bothered me since before the Enbrel really kicked in and started working, which was over four years ago.
So this morning, I thought, well, why not? Am I wanting to do it because of my ego? Am I feeling cocky and bold, or am I just feeling strong and healthy? I decided it was genuinely the latter, and that if I listened to my body, it was telling me it felt like being upside down. I knew I could practice forearm stand or handstand, but I'm not really strong enough to hold either of them for very long, so I thought, well, I'll just try it. I dragged my mat over to the wall and set myself up so that I could use the wall if I needed it. I got into position with hands clasped and my forearms making a V shape on the floor with the top of my head cradled solidly between, and then walked on tippy-toes until my hips were positioned above my shoulders, but with my toes still on the floor. All felt well in my cervical spine, so I took a breath and pushed my toes off the floor, bringing my heels to my bum in a kind of half-way-there headstand. All still felt fine, so I slowly extended my legs up....and it all still felt really fine! In fact, it felt good!
I forgot how much work headstand requires- all my muscles were engaged, from my shoulders and arms to my abs to my legs. It really is a great full body workout. And it felt really fun to be upside down again! The last time I practiced headstand was probably summer of 2007...thinking about how much has changed in my life since that time is pretty staggering. I've moved to a completely different city for a new job not once, but twice. I've traveled to Argentina, Austria, Belgium, the Czech Republic, Egypt, France, Jordan, The Netherlands, Peru, South Korea and Uruguay. I've fallen in (and mostly out) of love and become an aunt to two of the coolest, smartest little girls out there.
And now, in addition to all of that, I have taken back handstand. Take a hike, off limits!