When I was little, my mom never let me say, “I can’t.” I rolled my eyes like every kid does. She was convinced that the key to maintaining my self-esteem was for me to believe that anything was possible if I put my mind to it, and that a “defeatist” attitude was destructive. I still roll my eyes at my mom (do you ever grow out of that?) but I’ve come to appreciate her unwillingness to accept, “I can’t” from me and, as an adult, I try not to let my fear or prejudgment dictate what I do.
I also really don’t like labels so it always raises my hackles when people say things like, “all larger yogis want…” or, “larger yogis shouldn’t do x poses” etc…even if the intentions are good. For example, I have heard yoga teachers say “all larger yogis prefer to be in classes geared specifically toward them” or “larger yogis should only practice gentle yoga” or “you shouldn’t do inversions with larger yogis, they won’t be able to do them safely.” None of these things are universally true, and aren’t those statements sort of the same as saying, “we can’t”? Except this time the “can’t” is imposed upon larger yogis by others, which is disturbing.
The idea that we larger yogis can’t (or shouldn’t) practice “fancy yoga poses” like inversions, arm balances or whatever bothers me. Maybe it’s my mom drilling me about not saying, “I can’t” that makes statements like that rub me the wrong way. Obviously, everyone is different and our bodies all perform asana in different ways, but why are we shutting ourselves off from an entire genre of poses because of how we look?
I love how inversions, especially handstand, make me feel. During graduate school doing handstands helped me overcome anxiety and fatigue. Also, inversions are fun. Never underestimate the power of fun in your yoga practice. I’ll give some serious side-eye to any yoga teachers who say the practice isn’t or shouldn’t be fun. Handstand was the “final frontier” of poses that I used to be able to do when I was thinner, but that I hadn’t figured out in my current body. For a long time I struggled to accept that handstand might not ever happen for me again. Then, I had a breakthrough in my inversion practice that allowed me to kick up fairly easily to a forearm stand/headstand prep pose and, suddenly, getting my handstand practice back didn’t seem like such a pipe dream.
So I decided I wasn’t going to give up my handstand practice without a fight. I asked for advice from teachers on facebook and got awesome ideas. I tried kicking up a few times with different prop configurations but I didn’t have much success. That is, I didn’t until I picked up “The New Yoga for People Over 50” by Suza Francina from the library. She describes using two walls to move from L-shaped handstand to handstand. That seemed positively doable, so I tried it. And it worked. And there it was – my elusive handstand with all of it’s amazing benefits – back in my practice. Proving once again that I should listen to my mother and never accept, “I can’t” from myself or anyone else.
I know you all want to see what might be the ultimate yoga wall hack. So without further ado…here is hallway handstand.
All the mechanics of kicking up come into play in this version of handstand, but we use the wall to give ourselves a bit of a head start so our legs don’t have to travel so far. If you are interested in beginning a handstand practice, I definitely suggest practicing with a qualified teacher for safety and first working toward a solid L-shaped handstand before you attempt this. Happy inverting!