There are people in my life who influence me, some to whom I am very close; others who are really just passing through. It never really strikes me that I might be in a position myself to influence others. Turns out, I am.
And that position is upside down.
Being upside down has become a highlight of my day. The inversion segment of my yoga class is only about five minutes long, but it is the part of class that is the most fun for me. During this time, we can practice anything we want as long as part of our body is upside down. Shoulder stand, handstand, forearm stand, headstand; it is our choice, and our instructor either walks around and helps us or leaves us be on the chance we might topple over with his attention.
When I first started yoga, the thought of going upside down felt silly. I was self conscious. It was one thing to know I could do a headstand; it was another to do it in public. My children knew I could do a headstand, and I had the honor of doing so for my daughter and her college roommates on Skype a few years back, but that is really another topic. So, at yoga, in the beginning, I would just lie on my back and hoist my hips and extend my legs to the sky with my hands on the small of my back in shoulder stand. And I would wait for the segment to be over.
Then came the day when my daughter and I had a private lesson. I was completely at ease with just my instructor and my daughter and, when it came time to try an inversion, I went to the wall and did a headstand. One, two, three, I was upside down!
In the months that follow, my daughter conquers her fear of going upside down. My son’s turn comes next. Both live out of town and, one day, my son calls, saying Today, before work, I just popped out of bed and went into a headstand! His girlfriend takes up yoga, and we work on an inversion together during one of my trips to Atlanta. The sphere of influence widens, and I start receiving photos of my children and their various friends upside down.
There comes a photo of my son one night upside down in his work clothes, tie hanging in his face, the caption reading: Banker in a headstand. I am not supposed to mention the photo I receive from his girlfriend after their visit home. There he is in his boxers, upside down, with a caption reading: This is what we do when we get home. There is my daughter and her friends in Central Park, upside down. My younger cousin in a headstand at Passover Seder. My daughter with a date who admits he can do a headstand and soon thereafter, he and several friends prove it at a party. One day, I receive a text photo. It’s a picture of a lady in a headstand. Turns out, it is the mom of one of my daughter’s friends. Apparently, she used to be a gymnast. July Fourth brings more e-photos of three of my daughter’s friends in headstands, poolside.
Today, I can stand on my forearms - Pincha Mayurasana. I can finally pop into a Handstand with a wall nearby. I am working up the courage to do so in the middle of the room. I can transition from a headstand into a forearm stand.
I guess the biggest lesson learned here is not that I accomplished these inversions, but that I moved past any self consciousness. And that is what my children picked up on. It made it okay for them to try this, too. And that made their friends want to do it. And, apparently, the mothers of their friends! And who knows who else?
Yoga conquers self consciousness. It takes me out of my mind and into my body. This can be quite liberating, and that can be catching.
Turns out, going upside down can impact more than just the person on her head.