What is it about standing on your hands that's so fun? (Hmm, you're skeptical about the fun part? It comes once you get over the fear part, which happens through falling, and figuring out that it's not so bad after all. Sounds like climbing.) At a recent workshop with Tiffany Cruikshank she talked about her love of handstands and inversions due to their ability to snap you into focus on the present moment. There's no way your mind is going to be wandering to that to-do list, or that worry, or that email you need to send, right in that moment where you're trying to reach that delicate balancing point upside down. All of our sensations seem to bemagnified. I love the automatic twitching calibration that happens through your hands as your body unconsciously does it's utmost to stay upright. It's the same feeling through your foot in ardha chandrasana (half moon pose) or virabhadrasana III (warrior 3).
Personally I've always had this desire to be able to go upside down, it's what I love so much about acroyoga, and I was reminded recently that as a kid in swimming pools all I ever did was somersaults and handstands, no front crawl for me. For some reason though, I never persevered enough to be able to actually hold that balance point on stable ground.
I don't have the photo of me falling over, but trust me, it happened.
Later though, once I started yoga I began in earnest to really try and 'get' handstand, but four years later and I still hadn't got it. I always felt tightness in my shoulders was a prohibiting factor, and now still I always make time for shoulder openers coupled with stabilizing.
Recently though, things are starting to click into place. Finding new ways to feel balanced, a stronger core, and loads of partner spotting exercises (thanks Deirdre Murphy!) has helped me to find my balance point. I also played with some different variations, like below, which helped me to build up the confidence & belief that I could actually hold myself on my arms, while engaging different muscle groups and producing a different balance point, mixing some favourite elements: inversions and back-bending.
I'm still persevering to find full stability in handstands, but I wanted to write this post for anyone who's feeling resigned to the fact that there certain things they'll never do, be it in yoga, or in climbing, or any kind of personal objective. Let this help you get unstuck from that rut! Keep trying and use all the support available in order to teach your body or mind that it is possible (e.g. in climbing a power spot).
And whether your current challenge is physical or mental and has nothing to do with balance on your hands, why not try a handstand just for fun anyway. Going upside down reminds us of that childlike desire for play and exploration that adults too often push aside or dismiss as unworthy endeavors. I think that any attempt to gain further understanding of your own body the only one you'll ever know, and that will be with you your whole life, is an extremely worthwhile endeavor.
There's a good quote floating around in cyberspace at the moment that says: "Yoga is not about touching your toes, but what you learn on the way down." And so neither is yoga about standing on your hands, but what you learn on the way up! Why not try it, you just might surprise yourself what you find out.