“These feet have some exciting news to share!”
Twelve months and a few odd weeks of a dedicated yoga practice and after numerous attempts on a determined evening, the kicker of these feet kicked up into her first handstand. Her first handstand lasted about all of 3 seconds, one of which was filled by a squeal. After resting in child’s pose and at one point flat on her back on the floor, heart racing from excitement and exertion, she kicked up twice more!
I am grateful to my teachers and fellow yogis who have been a part of my yoga journey, who were instrumental in helping me cultivate courage and build strength in my body, which ultimately brought my feet to vertical.
I am grateful to Susan, my yoga instructor of my first ever yoga retreat in June 2010, for her role in “cracking open my heart” my very first day of that retreat in the hills of Umbria, Italy when she picked me to be the student to demo supported wheel pose or Urdhva Dhanurasana. The pose opened my heart for sure, bringing all sorts of fears about my body and emotions over some big life disappointments and heartaches to the surface. I let it all out under a canopy of oak trees in the Italian countryside, to which I now affectionately refer to as a sob fest. I am grateful for that meltdown under the trees – it was beautiful!
I am grateful to the yogis with whom I shared my Italy retreat, who supported me during practices and who felt the energy pour out of my heart when I came back to Urdhva Dhanurasana later in the week, with whom I shared poolside chats and delicious Italian food, and who filled my heart with joy: Daisy, Saskia, Rikke, Hoda, Colin, Karen, Michael, and Jill. I am especially grateful to Hoda and the memory of her courage in her handstands in Italy – her courage gave me courage.
I am grateful to Mindy, my yoga instructor in Costa Rica, where I said goodbye to 2010 and welcomed 2011 in a new year’s yoga retreat. Like Susan, Mindy is an Anusara inspired yoga instructor. I remember very clearly Mindy’s words, “you’ll go faster and farther in Anusara yoga.” When I got back to Seattle after that week long retreat with Mindy, a gift to myself, I dedicated my practice to Anusura yoga and began taking classes at Seattle Yoga Arts, feeling most at home in this practice. Mindy and her new husband, Marty, radiated with life and energy in Costa Rica and they shared their light with us. I brought this light home with me and felt it shining bright in my heart those first months of 2011. One winter day in 2011, I read Yoga Sutra I.36: “There is always a light within us that is free from all sorrow and grief, no matter how much we may be experiencing suffering.” This really spoke to me…if only I had known during my time of profound sorrow and grief that there was a light within me, showing me the way to the other side of my pain. My Costa Rica retreat gave me many other gifts, one of which is a colorful art piece by Caitlin Dundon, now in my living room, which has the words I wrote out in the sand on New Year’s Eve day. Two of these words are JOY and FREEDOM.
I am grateful to the new friends and yogis from my new year’s retreat in Costa Rica: Steve, Basia, Heather, Wayne, Lisa, Chris, Marty, Tamika, and Indira. We had so much fun together, so many laughs. I remember what Wayne said during our closing circle, that he’s never seen a yoga group grow so close so fast. It’s the yoga kula, “absolutely!” to use one of Marty’s favorite words.
I am grateful to Stacey, my latest international Anusara instructor and with whom I shared a tour of Bali and where I celebrated myself. My practice benefited greatly from Stacey’s teaching. She gave my body the support it needed and provided skillful teaching and compassionate encouragement that allowed me to experience challenging poses more deeply, specifically Urdhva Dhanurasana, the pose that opened my heart just one year before. I made leaps and bounds in my practice during my two weeks with Stacey – I got both feet off the ground in bakasana, or crow, for the first time and I made my first kicks ups at the wall in pincha. I blasted up into my first pincha, letting out a “whoa” in surprise when my feet collided with the wall. Along with Stacey, I am very grateful to Amanda and Jeannie, two fellow yogis who supported me in my Bali practices. Amanda coached me through my first pincha and Jeannie told me many times when we partnered together and practiced pincha and handstand, “you can do it, you’re getting really close.” These yoga successes – crow, pincha, and now handstand – are exciting and empowering, instilling a confidence that I carry into my daily life, a resource I draw on as I encounter life’s challenges.
I am grateful to my newest yoga family for sharing with me the sights, sounds, and tastes of Bali and for sharing in my joy when I made my first kick up into pincha: Amanda, Jeannie, Alfredo, Chloe, Elana, Jeff, Trish, and Lyn. I was definitely inspired by the many accomplished yogis in our group. I am also grateful to our guides Judy, Suyra, and Ketut for sharing Bali with us.
To my Seattle teachers who are very important to me: Denise, Bianca, Erin, Ellen, and Jessica. I am very grateful to these teachers who I see week after week, for helping me cultivate courage and build strength and for sharing their yogic wisdom and insights. There have been and are other yogis who have been and are a part of my journey – I am grateful to all of you as well. And to my friends and special people in my life who have witnessed my transformation and have listened to my yoga tales – thank you!
Lastly, I would like like to say a big THANK YOU to Elizabeth Gilbert and express my deepest gratitude to her. Reading Eat, Pray, Love changed my life and EG has been a huge source of inspiration to me. In fact, it is because of her I made my first kick up into handstand. I was spending some time with my thoughts under a special oak tree in Seattle….I was remembering my sob fest under the oak trees in Italy, remembering how I embraced her spirit and energy to get me through. I hearkened that memory under this Seattle oak tree, wanting to draw from my own strength and again wanting to embrace her spirit. I remembered in EPL where EG wrote about doing a handstand on the rooftop of an ashram in India and remembering that, I had a desire and determination rise up within me to finally kick up into my own handstand, to celebrate the strength in my heart and body. I did a few cartwheels on my walk home and again in my backyard to warm up and just because and then I got to work, try after try after try. I got closer and closer, a few times I felt a foot tap against the wall and…finally I drew myself up and let out a squeal of delight!
My very first blog about my very first handstand was originally posted on YogaBlaze on July 24. http://yogablaze.ning.com/profiles/blogs/my-first-handstand-amp-letter