What is so special about inversions? Why does it seem that more than in other poses, inversions create the most anxiety or even desire- the desire to "master" the pose? Many students are attached to perfecting sirsasana or headstand, adho mukha vrksasana or handstand, pincha mayurasana or forearm stand. In my own experience, students ask about inversions frequently, but none have come up to me and asked, how do I make a perfect trikonasana or triangle? I think it is because when our head is close to the ground and our feet are up in the air, we feel that we somehow defy gravity. We feel extraordinary. Even the aesthetics, or maybe especially the aesthetics of the pose, is visually impressive. And maybe in the deepest recesses of our hearts, that is what we want, to be extraordinary, to stand over our heads in order to stand out.
To explore our extraordinariness, come into a place of humility, in child's pose, where we are curled up and we make this body small. With this humility, think about what it is that you desire in this life. It could be something general, to be happy, to have peace of mind, to love, or it could be very specific, a goal you want to achieve, a place you want to go, a dream you want to fulfill. Using this desire as your intention, let it inspire you in your yoga practice. As you lift up your hands in prayer, you take this intention with you. As you extend your arms out in warrior 2, you see this intention sitting right at your fingertips. This thing that you do desire is so accessible. It is yours for the taking. Practice with your breath and with this intention of what you desire in your heart.
As it is the month of inversions, we can deepen our practice of inversions with a partner exercise. One partner kicks up into a handstand while the other assists. But before you take this partner exercise into action, let us also invert our usual way of thinking. Whether you are assisting the pose or doing the handstand, both of which you will do, visualize your partner being able to do a handstand to the best of his or her ability. We are going to make this partner exercise not about you, but about your partner. However much you desire to come into a perfect handstand yourself, you will set this aside for the few minutes that you are working with your partner. It is about him or her now. This is your practice of inversion.
After kicking up into handstand, come back to rest in child's pose. All that kicking up may be tiring and challenging, but I am going to ask you do something even more challenging. In fact, this is the most challenging part of the practice. That thing that you desire most for yourself, that you saw at your fingertips, that you are so close to getting- I want you to give that away to someone who equally desires it. We may want to resist this giving, but if we decide to offer this desire, we may feel uplifted, we may feel light, we may feel unburdened by our own clinging. And that is what is extraordinary about inversions.
When we lead with our heart instead of our head, we find ourselves capable of doing things we never imagined. What is extraordinary about us is not so much being able to contort our bodies into an upside down shape. More important than that, what is extraordinary about us is our capacity to be extraordinarily kind and generous and compassionate, to feel as others feel, to give away what we ourselves wish to receive, to offer what we most desire in our hearts.
What is extraordinary is that we have started the practice thinking of what we want, and we ended the practice offering what we want to give. Now that is an extraordinary inversion!