What you can learn by standing on your head

I was once asked: What would be the first line of your autobiography?

This was my answer: “She always said that learning to do a free-standing headstand was one of her life’s biggest accomplishments: it took dedication, hard work, patience, and balance.”

It might seem silly, but it’s totally true. Lessons learned from yoga, like those learned from other sports, can be applicable to so many aspects of your life. Yes, the twisted, pretzel-like positions of yoga may look odd, yet the lessons you pick up while mastering them are sensible and relevant in other areas of life. The practice doesn’t stay in the yoga studio, or the portion of your bedroom when your mat rests. If you allow it to, your yoga practice flows with you through the day as you move from home, to work, to the gym, to lecture, and back around again.

I love practicing yoga. After an hour of downward dogs and mountain poses, I feel renewed, calmed, and invigorated. Yet, in the hustle and bustle of DC life, it is often something that gets moved to the bottom of my ever growing to-do list. Often times I’ve gone weeks without yoga, without even realizing it.

Life in DC, or wherever you call home, is busy. Everyone is over-committed and double- or triple-booked. We work, we attend grad school, we train for marathons in Rock Creek Park, we debate politics, we meet friends for happy hour, we take ourselves too seriously…but how can it be any other way? We’re changing the world here ! (At least that’s what we “young professionals” tell ourselves.)

Among all this busyness, it‘s hard to find a moment to breathe. Who has time for that?

Buddhism, one of my favorite religions, and the birth-place of yoga, encourages people to find balance in all aspects of life. It touts the value of “the middle path” and of avoiding extremes.

DC is not a Buddhist city. It’s a work-hard, play-hard, no-time-for-sleep kind of a city. Which is why I think yoga is so important here.

When you’re upside down, head pressed to the floor, toes pointing straight up to the heavens, there is no room for politics, no room for work, no room for networking or trying to impress others. There is only room for balance. All your energy and concentration is focused on strengthening your core, on protecting your neck, on keeping from tipping over. It’s in moments like these when you realize again that before you can save the world, you have to take care of yourself. To see the world clearly, you sometimes have to take a step back, breathe in, breathe out, and change perspective.

There are, of course, many ways of making this happen, but for me it happens through yoga. It’s true that you’ll more often find me running or biking for exercise, but the moments when I feel most centered and relaxed–when I feel truly ready to take on the world again with energy and focus–are those moments after I’ve devoted an early morning hour to yoga.

I’m still getting accustomed to my new life here in DC. It’s still a constant stream of new locations, new people, and new experiences (which you know this wander loves!).

Some things have surprised me. Some things were as I expected. Some things I’ve had to adapt to, and some things I’m still figuring out.

But one thing I do know for sure is that my daily dose of yoga is going to help me get through the long days and constant challenges. Maybe it makes me sound like a hippie (which, of course, I don’t mind), but the up-dogs, and tree poses, and vinyasa flows keep me centered.

And a daily head stand is still the best lesson in dedication, hard work, patience, and balance.

This month is National Yoga Awareness Month. Want to check out why yoga matters to a whole host of other great people, or share why it’s important to you? Follow the these hashtags on facebook or twitter: #YogaMatters and #NYAMBC. Or head back to the site that inspired this post: http://publichealthonline.gwu.edu/yoga-matters-invitation.



One thought on “What you can learn by standing on your head

  1. Love this, Sasha. I, too, find yoga dropping to the bottom of my priority list when things get a little too busy. But you’ve re-inspired me to really try and find time to fit in a short practice here and there. Thank you!

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