The handstand challenge

OH MY GOSH handstands! I hate being upside down! This just feels weird. You can’t balance on your hands! No don’t do it!

These are recurring thoughts (the watered-down version) that race through my very supportive mind every time I attempt the handstand.

I’ve been trying and trying almost daily now to kick myself up onto a wall, but to no avail. Needless to say, I’m terrified of this particular inversion, and anything gravity-defying for that matter. Any inner ‘monkey’ I had in me disappeared since I fell head-first climbing something as a child. But this fear! How to gently overcome it?

The handstand challenge has prompted me to do some research on relevant build-up exercises, as well as psychological advice on how one may work through the fear. If you too are on the same boat of absolute terror, here’re some resources that may be of help:

  1. From Yoga Journal
  2. From Breaking Muscle
  3. Video tips on kicking up

I’ll keep trying!

Why yoga?

I don’t remember how I stumbled across yoga. I believe it was a combination of me having read this entertaining piece by comedian Kelly Maclean, and my mother having encouraged me to work on my inflexibility (as a teenager, I could barely touch my shins in Uttanasana). It’s always a lovely mystery how we end up doing what we do. 

The first classes I attended were painful and made me want to run away. It’s surprising in hindsight how I managed despite that, to show up on the mat every now and then. 

It must’ve been the subconscious at work, because I only realised later on why I was drawn to yoga — I wanted an activity rooted in universal wisdom, one that taught about the mind, body and spirit connection. Yoga practice satisfies this curiosity that many of us share, as it teaches beyond the physical. It is universal intelligence, a healing modality. While the 200-hour teacher training course can only provide a sneak peek, I hope to continue sharing its knowledge with others whose lives it can benefit. 

Karma Yoga

Pop culture loves the word “karma”. Here’re some examples of how the buzzword has been used: 


Funny but commonly misused, Karma isn’t actually a concept centred around punishment or vengeance.

Karma is a Sanskrit term that loosely translates to “action”. It’s a natural law that ties someone’s motive to act, the act itself, the reaction and consequence together. In other words, our life is shaped according to how we think and act. 

It isn’t a vindictive system of punishment, but a reminder that the past, present and future are connected, and that we have the free will to create our own destiny. 

Karma yoga, as we learnt in class, is one great way by which we can grow in our practice and achieve yoga. 

Karma yogis always act with enthusiasm and intensity. They act continuously with no interruption, without any expectations for specific results. For example, one can maintain consistent practice of yoga without asking how that will benefit them personally, or study to become better teachers without attaching to the outcome that we must be good teachers or liked by students.

Karma yoga thus ensures that selfish desires don’t interfere with the act of working itself. 

 

For that, I did actually find a good poster online:  

YTT, a humbling experience

A friend recently asked me how my teacher training course’s been going, to which I responded:

Practicing yoga feels like an ongoing exercise of humility. 

Building a strong and healthy body through yogic exercise requires focus, discipline, kindness to self (or else, injuries come!), and constant breaking down of the ego. The breaking down happens quite literally too – Our muscle fibres break down and tear when exercised. Only then can they be repaired into stronger and firmer ones. The more consistent the physical exercise, the stronger our muscles get.  

Likewise, our overall yoga practice can only improve through consistent and steady physical training. 

In yoga philosophy class, our teacher Sree asked:  

“Are you comfortable in your own skin?”

I paused for a long while “….Not entirely.”

On another occasion, he asked: 

“Tell me now, who are you? Describe yourself.”

I paused again as my mind raced, desperately looking for an answer that feels right: “I don’t understand what you’re asking….Okay, I don’t really know. I don’t know.” 

We often base our identities on external factors such as race, religion, socio-economic background, our job, and the people we surround ourselves by. Society tends to define people by similarly superficial labels. But without these outward layers, who are we really?  How do we identify ourselves?

These questions unnerved me, and the inward searching it’s prompted has become an unexpected but truly delightful part of my YTT experience.