first time

I remember the first time Robin mentioned the phrase “we are going to work on our inversion practice.” I started trying to retrieve the meaning of “inversion” and kept mentally throwing away the definition I came up with because it just could not be right. Inversion meant upside down didn’t it? Maybe she meant submersion practice? But how would we submerge in a yoga studio?

She did a demonstration. Yep, she meant upside down. Like stand on your head upside down.

Holy cow was this girl crazy?

Robin and Justin had been fellow students in yoga classes that I took in Canon City. Our instructor, Marie Bailey, wanted to fully immerse herself in yoga so she moved to Florida to live at an ashram. I tried some classes in Pueblo after Marie left, but it was a long drive and it just didn’t seem worth it.

Then I heard about Robin and Justin. They had started River Lotus Yoga in Canon City and they had classes during the day. I remembered them as being young, and very “bendy” which is a good thing in yoga. The bendy part. The young can be good or bad. Ok, it was worth a try and the first class was free.

They were operating out of a martial arts dojo in those early days last year. Many times Robin and I were the only ones there for class. I liked the variety of poses, I liked that I was challenged, I liked that we didn’t hold the poses for so long that I started doing my shopping list in my head.

Then came the day of the “inversion practice”.

Robin gave me several alternatives to standing on my head. I think she saw the look of incredulous mutiny on my face. So the first few times I’d lay on my back with my feet on the wall. Then that started feeling too lazy and like a cop out, and I graduated to my hands on the floor and my feet on the wall at a 90 degree angle. That was certainly more challenging, and I was “inverted” but I wasn’t standing on my head.

I did not want an inversion practice thank you very much. I didn’t care if the wall was there or not, I did not want to be upside down. I didn’t like it and I was not going to do it. The toxins that were in my body had been there a very long time, and I was ok with them hanging around indefinitely.

After a few weeks it started to sink in that this was not a phase she was going through, and she was not going to give up on this idea of an inversion practice.

So I did a tripod. You put your head down, place your hands at the base of the triangle formed between your head and hands, and stick your knees on your arms.

I was happy there. I was upside down and I felt pretty stable. I did that for a few weeks.

Then the classes started to grow. We moved into our own really cool yoga studio. And the classes got bigger and bigger.
The inversion practice did not go away. I started to get pissed off because IT DID NOT GO AWAY.

Driving home from class one day, I thought of something one of my instructors used to tell me all the time.

“That which is hard is your test”

Somehow, me getting upside down had become my test.

There was not anything physically keeping me from standing on my head. Fear was holding me back. Once I used that word “fear” in my conversation with myself instead of “I don’t like it” I realized that this was something I absolutely had to do. No way was I going to not do something like stand on my head because I was afraid of it. Especially since other people in the class were standing on their heads and some were working on hand stands. And that really bendy Gumby clone Justin (Robin’s husband) was practicing a one-handed hand stand for Pete’s sake!

I’m not going to bore you with the process I went through of learning how to stand on my head. At times it was definitely not pretty. I will tell you that knowing how to tuck and roll is very important. But I will show you a couple of pictures, taken this Saturday at a Yoga in the Park class that Robin taught.

Yes, that is me doing a handstand in the park Yes, that is me doing a handstand in the park

Notice there was no wall to catch me.

Yes, this is me playing around with my leg position while in a headstand. Yes, this is me playing around with my leg position while in a headstand.

Notice there was no wall to catch me. Notice I am actually smiling.

And just to show you some total awesomeness, this is Justin, yoga instructor and river raft guide, doing a handstand on a boat in the Whitewater Festival this weekend in Canon City.

Justin Englerth handstand in the Whitewater Festival 2013 Justin Englerth handstand in the Whitewater Festival 2013

I’ll be 56 years old this year. I feel grateful that I was given the gift of the opportunity to do something I had never done by a very gently persistent yoga instructor named Robin Beals.


first time

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