Posted tagged ‘lightness of being’

One Reason I like Yoga Better Than Benchpressing

July 20, 2010

Trying Handstand in Middle of Floor

I have a hard time standing up straight.  This is not totally a function of age.  I remember the father of a good friend coming up behind me as a teenager and jabbing a knuckle into the middle of my spine.  I’m not sure if this was a sign of my closeness to this particular family, or his abhorrence of slouching. All I can say is that his own kids had excellent posture.

My current style of yoga, which manages to be both speedy and desultory at once, does not do that much to relieve the natural compression of my spine.    (Part of the problem is that standing up straight takes not just flexibility but strength and attention and speed yoga tends to sidestep these.)  That said, the one yoga posture that I find almost instantly makes me straighter, taller, perkier, is a handstand.  They are just wonderful – for the inside of the solar plexus as well as the out;  they seem to literally take a weight off of your chest; they illuminate the momentary lightness of being.

Unfortunately, I don’t do enough of them.  In my home yoga practice, they rely upon the shutting of a particular door—this requires moving my voluminous yoga mats, taking down the Robert Pattinson calendar which hangs about the place my feet reach, and then too, the Tibetan Thangka which some embarrassed family member has hung over the Robert Pattinson calendar.   This is a laborious operation, which does not fit into my daily speed yoga routine.

I could try some handstands in the middle of the floor or on another wall, but you’d be surprised (i) how intimidating it can be do to a handstand in the middle of the floor—when you are afraid of falling, it’s very hard to kick up; and (ii) how hard it is to find good wall and kicking space in the average New York City apartment.

So right now I’m in Florida.  By the beach.  At my parents’ house.  I tend to take a break from yoga practice at my parents’ – partly because I am pre-occupied and partly because I don’t like doing yoga indoors in airconditioning, or outside on a concrete patio.  The beach is also not great –too sunny, too uneven.

But today, my spine just couldn’t take it anymore.   I cartwheeled in the surf.  Then, despite the lack of wall, I kicked up into numerous sort-of handstands.  (A manic nature and extreme short-sightedness are very useful in these endeavors.  It ‘s kind of a variation on the possible silence of a tree falling in the deserted forest—if you can’t see the people looking at you, is that truly the sound of snickering? )

For a few brief moments, I could feel my solar plexus bloom like a flower on high-speed film, my spine correspondingly straighten.

I’m sure there are gym exercises that give this same feeling of upper back strength.  Push-ups?  Bench-presses?  But I am afraid that all I could bench press would be an empty iron pole, which would be kind of, you know, ignominious, while a handstand—a handstand—has a both inner and outer glory.  With or without a wall.   Or watchers.