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Shannon Brady

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A style guide to conquering fear in handstand

*Note: this post is part of a 20-day writing prompt 101 program I’m participating in. Today’s Prompt: “We all have anxieties, worries, and fears. What are you scared of? Address one of your worst fears. Today’s twist: Write this post in a style distinct from your own.”

a style guide to handstand

a style guide to handstand

It’s not what you wear, but how you wear it. Or so says some acid-tongued fashion critic out there. I was thinking along these lines during my morning solo yoga practice as I approached handstand. I wrestled with a purple tank top that refused to stay put once my hands hit the floor. Do I tuck it into the back of my tights? Toss it to the corner? Curse the brand that designed the ill-fitting piece of crap?

Except it wasn’t about the damn top. It was about how I was wearing it. I paired it with all sorts of emotional accessories: fear, frustration, anxiety, and every other verb analogous to freaking out in preparation for pressing into handstand.

It took a few minutes of sitting on my ass, closing my eyes, and breathing deeply to get to the bottom of this nonsense. What is it about this basic (note I said basic, not easy) pose that always sets off internal five-alarm bells before my fingers touch the mat? Even after decades of practice? I realized, just prior to snapping the above photo, getting into handstand requires a lot more than simple mechanics or alignment.

I realized it’s not what I’m doing in handstand, but how I’m doing it. Traditional how-to guides on soaring high in the elusive pose run rampant – just type “handstand” into the YouTube search window and see what happens. Or look at any workshop page of a yoga studio and some sort of “Take Flight!” gig will appear. Point is, I’ve watched. Workshopped. Read. Practiced. For three decades or more, and I’m still scared shitless of handstand. What I need, I realized this morning, is an attitude makeover. Hence, here is my non-technical, non-practical, maybe even a little smartass guide on how to conquer fear in handstand with style:

1. Embrace individuality. You will teeter, flail, swear, grunt, and possibly crash land. Sometimes all at once. Welcome to handstanding! The key here is to anticipate, and even expect any or all the above behaviors to show up in technicolor with every attempt. Don’t quit. Keep at it and embellish heavily.

2. Stay current. Yesterday’s lumberjack shirts and Jennifer Aniston hair are gone. So too is whatever happened in handstand. Begin fresh with every attempt, and assume nothing. Not an ugly spill out onto your neighbor’s mat, nor a euphoric 15-second hold in what felt like a dance in Heaven. What happened yesterday is gone, and staying current will help keep you from comparing to past attempts or expecting something you have no way of predicting. Just kick up into the present moment and savor what happens.

3. F*** age-appropriate rules. I love brazen 60-ish babes who rock leather micro-skirts and acrylic nails. If they feel sexy in it, who am I to judge? Same thing with handstands. Start whining “I’m too old to learn” or caving to peers who say you’re nuts for trying and you may as well crawl into the wooden box and stop living. Seriously. Go near a wall, put on a helmet if you must, and kick up. Don’t act your age, just do it now or die an old fart who never tried.

4. Try bigger shoulder pads. I think they’re back…along with jumpsuits. Whatever, I’m just digging for an analogy here, and it’s this: bigger shoulder pads mean more muscle. Handstanding takes work. Planks, push ups, upside down L-shapes at the wall, lunges (if you need a visual go to YouTube). I’m just here to tell you that to kick up and soar, you gotta get strong. Seriously strong. And even then, no guarantees.

So there it is. My guide to conquering fear in handstand with style. Think I’ll go try it now. As soon as I adjust my purple tank top…


One comment on “A style guide to conquering fear in handstand

  1. jabrush1213 says:

    I love your prompt about embracing life as it is. We don’t need to be told to stop doing things when we are a certain age. I like how you were able to add in individuality and modern fashion styles into. I found this piece empowering.

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