I have had a great relationship with handstand. For months after my spinal injury, it was the one pose I kept trying and the one I most dreaded. I kept trying this asana every day for almost three months, as much as possible. I would fail each time I tried to kick up and felt my entire left leg was numb. I tried every day, without fail, and I always had the same result. I spent so much time flailing around. I would toss the right leg up in the air, while the left acted as a dead weight pulling my torso back to the ground to see yet another fall.
I worked endlessly each day. With each attempt, Amma’s words resonated stronger than thunder, tuning to those pearls of wisdom She gave me: “Amma loves yoga. Amma was concerned because my daughter fell down from the train (the story about my spinal injury). Amma loves that you practice and teach.”
Attuning to these words, I kept trying, tirelessly trying, to do Adho Mukha Vrksasana (handstand) at the wall. I would strengthen my arms and shoulders, stretch my hamstrings, and turn my hands out so my shoulders would open more. I tried looking down, looking forward; you name it. I wanted so desperately to spring up onto my palms, with my legs light as a feather. I wanted my feet to lightly touch the wall as they rose above my head with grace, just like anyone else could in their practice. Why was I struggling so much to kick up into this pose?
My heart was throbbing to get this pose. Finally, one day, I diligently went to the wall with my mat and set up for the pose. I kicked up once and nothing happened. I kicked up again and that’s when I felt it – that feeling like ‘I almost did it!’ I was a breath away from getting both feet to the wall. I don’t know exactly what happened, but it was as if all this time I wasn’t using my left leg. In that moment my left leg came to life and sprung up to meet the other one. I felt brilliant!
I didn’t get up, but I captured a glimpse of how I could get up in the very near future. It was like a high. I don’t necessarily think it had to do with something I did specifically that day in practice. For sure though, the focus on Amma’s words certainly helped in my journey, and all I needed was the right attitude and the effort.
The next day, I rolled out my mat and did a few hamstring stretches, taking myself over to the wall. First kick and I was up! I could hardly believe it. I immediately tried again, and again, I was able to come fully into the pose. There was no tiredness or any other feeling. I felt completely fine and could even hold the pose for around 30 seconds.
Every day is new. And every day I have a different outlook each time I practice. Though we all have learnt so much when it comes to our practice, we are taken to a deep level of humility in order to stay and listen to what we don’t know and to be grateful for what we know. Every pose, every time is new and fresh with a deep inner vision and penetrating awareness. We need to give up the notion that ‘I know’ and instead be humble to listen to the inner voice and re-learn to make this journey. This is “true yoga”. This is my experience through all these years staying with Amma at Amritapuri ashram in India.
The heart of yoga is practice. When yoga is practiced correctly and continuously over an extended period of time, with heart-oriented intention and devotion, its secrets reveal themselves, supporting and enriching us. From the firmness of the posture, to the steadiness of the mind, to a refined breath, yoga uplifts us day by day in the minutest ways of being and functioning.
There is a natural unfolding. This is my learning in practicing regularly for more than 27 years. It is important to remember that the mere repetition of the various daily practices is not enough. The quality of the practice depends on a deep listening and responding to the breath in the body, the heart, and the mind with a keen intention on what one wants to achieve.
The principles are deep listening and constant response, through subtle adjustments. They are the very core of practice. Relaxing, intensifying the mind, focusing through intent, rooting, connection and an awareness of the breath are not ideas or tools; they are a way of being, of functioning. Life is amazing with all the avenues that we get to learn. It seems that all we have to master is still on the outside, but the real mastery comes from within. The presence of a Living Master in our journey is to speed this process.
Come visit Amritapuri, India to experience a day with Amrita Yoga.
Author: Brahmacharini Shobhana