Strength and awareness beat force and rigidity for collaborative and exemplary decision making.
As children, handstands were an expression of our carefree and fearless selves. They were spontaneous, energising and fun. As adults, regardless of yoga experience, they can feel forced, exhausting and intimidating.
In this inverted, unsupported place, we must feel confident in our ability to stay easy in the face of uncertainty, connect with our centre, challenge our comfort level and approach it all with an attitude of fun, no matter how it ends. Perhaps a lifetime of socialisation and self-set expectations can dampen this inherent ability.
From a physical viewpoint, handstand is a wonderful practice to build strength, balance and focus on the mat. At the same time, exploring this posture can uncover these same qualities in how we lead, ourselves and others. Many seasoned yogis still see handstand as a nemesis to conquer, yet it’s far from being one of the more physically demanding requests in a typical class. What it does do, though, is bring us face to face with our attitude towards fear and the unknown. It’s certainly not ‘normal’ to find ourselves upside down, to see the ground so closely or feel blood rush to the head. When hands become feet and vice versa, everything looks and feels different. But this is still you.
When connected to the core and engaging every part of the body, starting from a standing split and simply rocking the raised hip and leg, with awareness, start to take little hops towards the sky. Without expectations about the outcome, staying fluid but strong, flexible but balanced and loose but focused, the results can be surprising.
It’s useful to consider that it really only takes a moderate level of fitness to kick up with the support of a wall and while this can be useful for getting comfortable and training the muscles, the real fun begins when it moves from being an act of brute force, to a place of ease, courage and belief. This is also where we feel more centered, aware and focused.
In the same way that we can utilise a wall as transitory support and go through the motions for a perfectly respectable physical workout, as a leader we may find ourselves pushing through our own agenda with authority, the temporal support of the ego as a brace. Consider that engaging the whole team, or key elements of it, could offer an altered perspective before going upside down. The results when we get there will also be stronger and harmonious. It can be surprising how much easier things feel when everyone is on board, supporting the same outcome. This is equally true in the physical body in the face of a challenging inversion as it is in the meeting room in the face of a difficult decision.
A handstand with the entire body engaged, full control of our entire being and the role each part is playing in holding us there is a powerful place, and it looks easy. Leading from this place, too, is a powerful, controlled, humble and inspiring example to set.
When you can feel yourself falling out and losing balance and be ok with it is exactly when the deeper benefits arise. A handstand approached with force and rigidity lies on the opposite end of the spectrum from one borne of flexibility and grace. Rigid things snap when they are forced. Flexible things yield. Only one returns easily to its original form.