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How Turning Upside Down Made Me Stand Strongly On My Feet

September 23, 2012

My world as I knew it ceased to exist last November by an event in my personal life. There are many ways I can describe my situation at that moment. It felt as if someone had suddenly removed the carpet on which I was standing and I went tumbling all over. Or, it was as if I was caught in flood waters without any branch around me to hold onto.  I will spare you the details but will just tell you that being betrayed and heartbroken by someone who has been in your life for a long time can feel like a free fall. The gravity of the situation sucks you down swiftly and strongly and there is no safety net at sight. So, how do you manage to get back on your feet, let go of your fears and maintain your sanity in these type of situations?

As B.K.S. Iyengar says in his Light on Yoga, “The best way to overcome fear is to face with equanimity the situation of which one is afraid.”  Some of you might know that I am a coach and a faithful Iyengar yoga practitioner and may guess that it was thanks to my practice that I managed to do just that, get back on my feet and maintain serenity through yoga and self-coaching. What’s ironic is that the poses that helped me most to stand on my feet and feel good again were upside down poses like the headstand pose (Sirsasana). For those of you who are not familiar with yoga, it is the wonderful pose displayed in the picture of this blog post. It has plenty of benefits such as detoxifying your body, increasing cerebral blood flow, strengthening skeletal muscles, improving balance and concentration and increasing the flow of subtle energy. What is most interesting however, are the other not so obvious benefits that this pose in particular provides. I will get to them below.

In the beginning of my advanced yoga classes, I was very wary of this pose. I can say that it was the only pose I did not want to try in my class. Although I could do almost any other pose, I showed a lot of resistance to trying this one, and when I finally tried to give it a shot a few years ago, I was afraid, impatient to go up, and when I finally went up, I couldn’t wait to get down because it felt so uncomfortable. I was afraid of going up, falling, injuring myself and just didn’t enjoy the whole experience. When I was down, I would find myself worrying about how to lift myself up, when I was up, I was afraid about how I would go down safely. I was never in the moment. Sirsasana is all about being there and keeping the serenity and I was far from achieving that state of mindfulness.

Now you might ask, why is she talking so much about yoga? Well, yoga has a lot to do with life situations and our reactions to these situations and I am a strong believer that it offers a lot of wisdom on life’s troubles.  Our body and sensations are excellent sources of wisdom and yoga gives us access to that wisdom by teaching us how to listen to our bodies. When you are in sirsasana, you get a different perspective of things. When we are faced with difficult situations, it is really like being upside down physically. In the end, you learn to construct new meanings of what you see and experience, leave your old judgements aside and you understand that things other people do are not in your control. Also, as in any other yoga pose, you learn to love and respect yourself enough and to let go when you get signals of serious pain in your body. The real challenge lies in bringing these learnings into real life and transfer the wisdom of your body to your heart, mind and soul.

Life presents us many opportunities disguised as difficulties so that we can have second chances by being courageous, letting go of fear and trying new things. But unless we start to respect and love ourselves the way we deserve to be loved and respected, and every once in a while turn our vision upside down, we may not be able to redefine life’s challenges as opportunites and make full use of our potential.

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