Thirty-one days ago I embarked upon a 365 day handstand challenge. I should let you know that 31 days ago I didn't know the first thing about how to handstand. All I knew was that I wanted to learn.
I was inspired to such madness by Amber Shumake, a yoga teacher I'd been following on Facebook, but who I've never met in person. Amber wrapped up her 365 day handstand challenge on Mother's Day, and one day a few weeks ago, without giving it any logical thought at all, I posted a comment on one of her posts and told her and the universe that I was picking up the torch. I would start my 365 days the day after she finished hers.
So for the past 31 days, I've been posting a video of my progress on our Instagram and Facebook pages.
Since this is really the only consistent "public" view of my yoga practice, I wanted to take a moment to provide some context around the handstands and what my real yoga practice looks like.
My real yoga practice consists of a lot of laying down :) I have issues with my sacrum and my left SI joint, and they're painful pretty much every day. Like most everyone, I have a lot of tightness in my upper back, shoulders, and neck. I teach and practice a very therapeutic style of yoga, so my yoga practice is intended to address my trouble spots and reduce tightness and pain so my body will be happy.
I pretty much always warm up with a lot of very slow paced laying down postures. Just laying on my back (on the floor) brings relief to my sacrum. I do a variety of poses to stretch out my legs and hips. If I have time and energy, I might also do a few down dogs or standing poses.
My real practice is pretty boring to watch compared to the handstands, but if you want to get an idea of what it looks like you can check it out here. Please note that this is the end part of my practice, after I was completely warmed up.
And the handstands are pretty much the polar opposite of my real practice. They're quick and flashy and mostly just for fun. But I've realized that they do provide an excellent opportunity for increasing strength and also for self-study, both in the moment and later when I review the videos, and to me, self-study is a very important aspect of yoga.
In my handstand practice I pay attention to so many details: the position of my hands, shoulders, hips, legs, and feet; the engagement of different muscles throughout my body; how I'm breathing; my energy level.
By sharing the videos online, I'm not only holding myself accountable, but I'm also creating a visual timeline of my progress. An on-going "Before" and "After".
And maybe more importantly, I'm a real life representation of our Yoga for EveryBody philosophy. If you look up #handstand on Facebook or Instagram, you're pretty much only going to find super-fit, young, thin yogis, and me :) And while, yes, of course, I wish I was in better shape, I'm also proud to show that yoga is indeed for every body.
Alright, I'll get off my soapbox now :) and encourage you to find your own challenge.
Which yoga pose do you wish you could do better or with more ease? It doesn't have to be something flashy like handstand; it could be anything. Maybe a seated forward fold, maybe down dog, or maybe even the basic comfortable sitting position?
Just like with yoga practice, make this challenge your own. Take 30 or 100 or 365 days to consistently work toward your pose. Post a comment wherever you read this (blog, Facebook, etc.) to let us know what pose you're committing to work on and for how long. Let us know if you have any questions or need any guidance.
Then take a photo or video every single day and decide if you want to keep it for yourself or if you want to share it on social media.
If you keep it for yourself, I suggest naming each photo "Day 1", "Day 2", etc., and putting them all into a single folder to keep them organized so that you can go back and review your progress. You might even keep a journal of notes and observations to go along with your photos.
If you decide you want to post your Challenge photos online, use the hashtag #rryogaroom so that we can keep up with your progress, too!
I'm so excited about this! I've learned a lot in my first 31 days of handstanding, and I'm sure you're going to learn a lot about yourself and your body if you decide to join me in this Challenge.
P.S. So getting back to the question about whether yoga selfies just serve to feed the yogi's ego, my opinion is that it depends. Selfies might be used as a learning tool (that's mainly what mine are for me) or they might be used to show everyone in social-media-land just how cool and awesome you are. It depends on the yogi :)
Zelinda Yañez is the founder and director of The Yoga Room in Round Rock, Texas.
She began practicing yoga right after college, when she entered Corporate America, to help her manage stress and improve mental focus. The benefits she realized in her yoga practice inspired her to want to share yoga with busy working people like herself.
She studied to become a yoga teacher, and then after 10 years working in various engineering and marketing roles in the high tech industry, she opened The Yoga Room, a studio where people of all shapes, sizes, and experiences, come together to practice yoga in a friendly and welcoming environment.
Zelinda’s teaching style makes yoga accessible to everyone. She considers her students’ abilities and goals and designs and adjusts the practice in real time so that every student can achieve maximum benefit. She believes regular yoga practice cultivates a healthy and balanced life.
Zelinda is hosting Renewing Your Spirit, a beach yoga retreat in Port Aransas, Texas, July 23 - 27. For details, please visit http://rryogaroom.com/beach-retreat-2014/.