Preparing for the pose I feel light and confident. It feels natural. It is how my body wants to move. Pushing up there is a flicker of doubt and a slight hesitation in my arms before resolve kicks in and I’m going higher, reaching into the sky in a backward arch and my thighs, stomach, chest and arms are being opened and it feels odd and exhilarating and slightly surprising to be here.
Afterwards I feel high. Not a high-fiving, ‘oh yeah I completely smashed it’ kind of high but a quiet reawakening, a mumur of pleasant memory through the cells in my body. It comes to me later that this is perhaps obvious. As a little girl I loved gymnastics. Along with my brother, I would commandeer the living room as my gym, using the sofa, chairs and cushions to make obstacles to wildly fling myself off, over and on to.
As fun as this was, my favourite kind of gymnastics was of the barefoot-in-the-garden variety. My favourite pose was the wheel. Although, of course, it wasn’t a ‘pose’ back then, it was something my body wanted to do so I did it. No complicated philosophies, no researching the merits of this physical position, no worrying if all this hanging around inverted backwards was a good use of my time. I liked the upside-down view and the unusual feelings in my body and having my hands and feet pressed into the grass.
It felt perfectly natural for me to teach myself. I built up to doing it by walking my hands down a wall, enjoying this process, hand by hand walking down, relaxing, breathing, feeling for when my body was ready for my hands to touch the ground.
The idea of doing this as an adult seems unrealistic. I am too heavy, too inflexible, too scared. Yes, all of this is true but what creates it all is that I am no longer so connected to my body. Like many adults, I came to primarily dwell in my brain not my body. The body easily becomes little more than a servant, only appreciated for its good work when service becomes unsatisfactory or stops altogether.
It is reasonable then, that the idea of doing something like this seems unrealistic.
But now I am here, inverted, relaxed and confident, my adult brain marvels at it. My limbs solidly planted to the earth through feet and hands. My chest and stomach stretch open and reach towards the sky. I wonder what this communicates to the limbic system, the primal part of our brain that houses fear and the instincts we share with animals. I can imagine it is a message of equal parts unwavering strength and trusting openness. In stark contrast to the ‘stress pose’ of hunched shoulders and tight chest we adopt so easily in daily life.
A child may find this pose natural, moving into and out of it with ease and joy, but as an adult it takes a while to get here. It takes even longer to want to get here. To my beginner’s mind the ‘difficult’ poses are less about demonstrating flexibility and strength and more about creating such a strong body-mind connection that we can perform them as easily and joyfully as a child.
|About the author|
Cat Easterbrook came on holiday to Azul Yoga & Pilates Retreat and never left, finding a home on this beautiful island and working alongside the wonderful, spirited, talented, nurturing people at Azul (her, rather biased, words). She is currently travelling in India and Nepal, studying yoga and meditation, and learning to keep her yoga calm amongst the honking horns, holy cows and cheeky monkeys.