Handstands and the dark places

A handstand workshop is the perfect vehicle for me to experience mediocrity.

I have never had any skill in this department. There was mastery of the cartwheel, forward roll and sausage roll. There were competent splits and passable walkovers alongside enthusiastic Arab springs, but as a kid being upside down remained elusive to me. There was the occasional attempt at a handstand walk just to show willing, legs would flail dangerously, people in close proximity would flee, sensibly.

Once those primary school days were over, handstand practice, alongside being topless in public, was left behind.

Given this complete lack of natural talent, and no inclination whatsoever to have blood pool in my head, it was surprising to find myself agreeing to a handstand workshop. I say surprising. It really wasn’t. It followed the usual pattern for me doing things.

“Hey you should come to the handstand workshop on Monday”

Me: Yes…I should. Even though I injured my neck last year and weigh only slightly less than an All Black prop…yes, I think that would be a great idea.

Which essentially means I didn’t think it through at all, like quitting uni, or moving overseas, or any manner of other ideas I’ve had that have had varying degrees of positive outcomes.

In my mind, this will make a pretty fantastic mum and daughter date we get a bit of time together doing smuggercise. See us! Doing active things together. Like advertisement families.

But then she reneged on it to go to the movies. So it was left to me. Suddenly I felt less enthusiastic. She was my focus; I don’t even want to do handstands but I thought it would help her with CrossFit.

Left to my own devices, without enthusiasm, the catastrophes crept in. I would surely die.

I would break my neck and the organisers wouldn’t know how to contact my family so they would have to put it on Facebook. I would be paralysed. I would break one or both of my wrists. I would, at the very least embarrass myself and this would probably be worse than breaking my wrists, although better than death, granted. The only reason I went in the end, was because I said I would and my people pleasing decision making kicked in and I didn’t want to let the organiser down.

So, I despondently, dragged my arse across Auckland. The people I was going with know me from a Facebook group, They see my highlight reel. It dawned on me as I drove, that they would see me in a less competent situation.

“Oh, she’s not that strong is she?”

“She’s much fatter than I thought”

“I thought she would have been able to hold herself up”

This is what cycles through my head as I walk to the door.

Oh, and it’s in a yoga studio, and we know what I think about yoga. And making me feel even less comfortable are all those bare feet.

Kylie tells us that this is for everybody (everybody but YOU, is what I hear).

There will be a series of progression exercise and then some of use will be upside down (but not YOU, Polly)

The exercises start of achievable. Some lying down core thing. Some shoulder mobility. Weird toe stuff, and some slidey thing on plastic plates. This seems okay. I’m holding my own, I’m not a thousand miles away from the other people in the class. I’ve taken my glasses of and I’m purposefully avoiding the mirror. It’s okay. I’m okay.

Then we partner up. We do this practice from a high plank where our partner takes our legs and then drops then one at a time to see if we can hold them there. Dread washes over me. Will they be able to hold my legs? But I re-frame this as my partner getting a bonus upper body work out and get amongst it. I suck. Not totally, but my left leg struggles.  From here, its piking to an L shaped inversion. I’m upside down. Sort of.

Next we pair up again on the wall. These progressions have moved on quickly. Were bunny hopping against the wall, and next thing its assisted upside down. First legs on partner’s shoulders and then against the wall. Fully upside down. Shoulders in sockets, fingers gripping the ground, thighs squeezed together and tight through the core

Then it gets weird, because it turns out that more than it being difficult, its simply scary. And I’ve been scared before. Scary is familiar and manageable and as Joseph, who trains me says, “You’ve been to the dark places”. I’m not thinking about breaking wrists, and fractured vertebrae, I’m just upside down. I’m not aware of anything for a moment, and then I remember, and I have to come down. But that doesn’t matter because I’ve done it. Safely, under control. I haven’t kicked anyone in the head, or exposed my boobs or arse. And then, because I should never be allowed in a yoga studio, I high five my partner.


It turns out my body can support me upside down, While I can’t overhead press half my bodyweight, I can support it upside down with a little help from my energiser bunny partner in crime.

It would have been so easy not to go today again, but what a wasted opportunity that would have been. It was an  example of going to the places that scare me, and like anything I practice, from deadlifts to self-acceptance to baking hot cross buns, the more it’s practiced, the easier it gets.

The limitations in my head are likely stronger and more lasting than the limitations of my strength and flexibility, but until I test them, I’ll never know for sure. And using my body weight as an excuse not to try? Well, that’s just not how I want to live. –

See more at: singlefatandhappy.com



With much gratitude to Om Yoga Studio for making the dark place a little lighter

And Motivate Me NZ  for making a whole load of suggestions, that I find impossible to refuse.

Oh and finally, before my fraud alert goes, off, I really did get to the wall, but not in front of a photographer, so this photo will do.



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