Mastering the Art of Lightness

Struggling to let go of the wall.
I’ve been trying to master the art of lightness. To move through life with ease when very often my body feels heavy. One of the ways I’ve been practising lightness is teaching myself to do a headstand

It sounds counterintuitive, but in order to stay upright and inverted, to feel light, I’ve had to tense my whole body. I start by forming a triangle with my forearms, put my head on the mat, lift myself into a dolphin pose and walk my feet closer to my face, then squeeze my core to lift my feet off the ground and hug my knees to my chest.

Balancing on your head and forearms without putting too much weight on your neck is one part of it. The other part is to lift your legs and straighten them upright. The trick is to squeeze. Everything. Even your toes—a very helpful tip from a friend. I remember the first time I managed to keep my legs upright and stayed for three seconds, then ten, then thirty. That light-switch moment when you feel that momentary lightness that suspends all disbelief in what you think your body can do. 

But of course, I’ve always had the wall to fall back on. Once I tried to do a headstand just a few inches away from the wall and my panicked body tensed up so much I fell hard on my shoulders and nearly sprained my neck. Two weeks ago in Bali, I attended a Vinyasa class where I attempted a headstand right there on my mat with no support. I lifted myself off the ground very slowly and stayed upright for all of five seconds before I felt my legs lean too far backwards. But my body intuitively knew what to do. My legs kicked forward and I tumbled sideways and rolled myself back up to a seated position. My body felt soft and nothing hurt. I had fallen in front of my friends and a room full of strangers and I had allowed myself to squeal and laugh.

This was when my body learnt that falling is lightness too. The trick is to let go, be silly, and be very, very soft. 

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