Spooky Action

By Bernie McKnight

My main concern after breaking my elbow last year was getting back to handstand.

My decision to have surgery & my commitment to physical therapy both were informed by the fact that I wasn’t willing to give up my status as a handstander.

Handstands are great. For me, keeping my balance when I’m upside down is a matter of noticeable undulation. I must be aware of what’s working to keep me from toppling over, and, while perfect balance is rare and fleeting, it cannot be ignored and is completely exhilarating!

Handstands are also very easy for me in the sense that I’m not afraid of inverting. Many people, I’m told, are afraid of going upside down. Because of this handstand can be a way to do what scares them, And as they begin to understand what approaching fear feels like in the yoga room they can imagine how that would look in other parts of their lives.

The scariest part of my handstand practice is admitting that it is very much a pose of ego for me. I don’t need encouragement to come into the pose. I get instruction once I’m there. I’m a person who can do handstands and I let the fact that it is a boundary-pushing pose for some go to my head. Like, I can go upside down, I’m perfectly comfortable outside of my comfort zone.

I recently experienced life changes so big that I questioned if I would ever be comfortable again. That’s what it took for me to understand that just because I am naturally capable of doing something that is a major challenge for others doesn’t make me immune to challenge.

Last night in yoga class I attempted handstand for the first time since my injury. My teacher told the class to strap the arms ‘if you are afraid your elbows will buckle’ as my titanium radius head gave way and I found my self grounded.

I am a person who can’t do handstands. But the pose still poses no fear for me. I’m not afraid that my elbows will buckle; I know they will and I know how to take care of myself in my practice of the pose until they don’t.

I’ll continue to practice and I’ll get that sense of balanced freedom some day and it will be great, but it won’t be the same kind of great that someone who never thought they could get upside down experiences when they come into down dog with their feet at the wall and walk their legs up until their torso is to vertical.

One of the things facing fear means is to tap into power. I’m coming off of six of the most brutal months of my life. I never thought I wouldn’t survive, but spontaneous bursts of ‘what doesn’t kill me makes me stronger’ shepherded me through many moments and today I am mighty.

Today I am ready to go into the yoga room and approach something that scares me. I don’t know if I’ll ever stand so tall that my hands touch the floor, but I do know how to try with all my honor.