Thursday, March 26, 2009

Some more thoughts on the Headstand...

Both Jen and blogoyogo's comments about last week's post made me think about the mental challenges of a headstand. Or, maybe, how the physical challenges affect the mind. Anyway, I thought I'd dig into the archives for a sequence that helps prep the body for a handstand (here you go), but also offer a few more thoughts.

I always move very slowly into the pose, both for myself and with my class. You just never know what you're going to feel like, until you're almost there. In class, I have every one come into the tripod at the wall with their knees on the floor so they can adjust their hands and find the right spot on the top of their heads. Then I have them straighten their legs, so they are--sort o--in Dolphin pose, but with their shoulders pressed to the wall. Again, they check their hands and head and see how the additional weight feels.

Then they walk their feet forwards, towards their faces, so the torso comes in line with the shoulders--approximately. Once more, they check their base, how does the neck feel, how do they feel about being this inverted. Then we gently lift one leg and hop on the other foot to get the feeling of lifting off, but without committing the whole body to coming up. Okay? Not okay?

Finally, if all of that feels good and the body feels prepared, I have them kick one foot and then the other over head, so the heels come to the wall above. By now, the inverted feeling is not so foreign and, hopefully, they've made adjustment to their hands and head so the full weight of the body isn't uncomfortable.

I figure, this gives everyone a chance to bail if they want, but also it eases the body into the position, so even nervous students can give the pose a try. Sometimes I need to stop some one from going up, but I can keep an eye on everyone to see who might not make it. Many times I've had hesitant students go up and stay up, because they've felt prepared for the challenge.

See if this approach works for you. If you're relatively new to headstands it might still be a bit clunky, but this way you can ease into the inversion. Like I said, I always do it just to make sure I'm up for it (while I'm still down).

Wednesday, March 18, 2009


Salamba Sirsana, King of all Asana, the Headstand. I haven't been doing enough of them lately, but they are so much fun when I do. Why? Because you get to be upside-down. The boys seem to spend at least a third of their time throwing themselves on the floor, heads down, butts up the wall/the back of the couch/the edge of the ottoman. Hilarity ensues. Gales of laughter. The baby does a sort of free-form Uttanasana meets Down Dog, and looks around at it all from that perspective.

A friend asked for my thoughts on her new teaching space: a conference room in a skyscraper with panoramic views out a wall of windows. How did I think she should teach headstands, so as not to disorient her students? I gave it some thought--I didn't want her to lose anyone. But it seems to me the whole point of a headstand is to disorient. You're upside-down, you're inverting your whole body, gravity pulls on the opposite end, blood rushes away from the feet towards the head. If you accept this topsy-turvy situation, it can be very freeing as you watch birds fly under trees and an ant scurry upside down past your forehead (hopefully, that won't make you lose your balance).

It's a treat and a trip to go head over heels. Make sure you cushion the top of your head and don't rush to get away from the wall. If you need the support to feel safe and comfortable, use it. If kids love to do it and do it repeatedly ad nauseum, it's got to be fun.

Embrace the new view and look around--who know what you'll see from this angle.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

The Smell of Memory

I'll have to admit, winter got to be too much. I escaped to funny, sunny Austin, TX with son #1 to visit my sister for a long weekend. What a treat. We hit many a playscape, ate BBQ and Tex-Mex on the porch, and got caught up. It was sort of a reunion weekend, unintentionally. A few friends were able to sneak away from their winter quarters, a few more still lived in Austin, one had a meeting for work. Live-action Facebook.

I lived in Austin in the early '90s. It was the location of the first what-am-I-going-to-do-with-my-life crisis; leaving art history, a quick stop in fabric retail, then moving onto a Costume Design M.F.A. So, I revisited many memories: spied on old homes (all still standing, a bit more run down, one hideous paint job), visited the University of Texas Costume Shop, dined at favorite restaurants, wandered familiar Zilker Park trails. Meeting up with old friends was a trip, and it seemed as if no time had passed at all until Eamonn--the son--came wandering by, to remind us all that life moves on. "Mom, where's my Cars sticker book?"

What stopped me dead in my tracks was the smells. They say scent evokes strong emotional memories, and this trip was no exception. Flavors in the air kept catching me by surprise. High on the list of favorites was Mountain Laurel, a very purple-y smelling flower (like Grape Bubble Yum) that is a harbinger of spring in Texas. The most startling was the smell of the theatre building on campus (completely undescribable--dust+dancer sweat+grease paint+scenery paint+etc etc etc). I breathed it in as I climbed the stairs to the costume shop and I was immediately struck by a feeling of dread--deadlines, incomprehensible draping instructions, irritating student actors, imagined (hopefully) academic inadequacy.

Odd, since the costume world has served me very well in the decade since grad school, and yet that building smell reduced me to an insecure student. Instantly. It suggests that there are some unresolved issues from that period, although I'm not sure how I would deal with them. It was a very interesting moment.

This combination of smells and faces made it a vacation of much reflection. Interesting to unpack some of that baggage, but I was also glad to put it away once I got home. I keep being confronted with the past--my and other's recollections on fb--and this visit was another manifestation of that. I love checking in with things that happened in previous chapters, finding out how people's lives have unfolded, reestablishing contact. I'm a little rattled by the emotional responses still lurking.

Material for the book, I guess. I wish I could publish this in scratch-n-sniff: