During my years as a dancer and gymnast I have tried countless attempts at tricks and flips that took me off the floor and landed me flat of my front side, knocking the wind right out of me. So why shouldn’t I continue my winning streak of “balls to the wall” moves with yoga?

Mastering headstands was one of the more difficult tasks in my yoga practice. True, I grew up in gymnastics, but anytime we were upside-down we were either on our hands or left the floor completely. Seeing as how doing anything on your head also probably meant you did something wrong and landed that way, headstands were quite a difficult concept for me to grasp. In addition, I have had a few severe car accidents and some regular hard snowboarding falls, so the muscles I needed to perfect those headstands are actually quite damaged.

In the beginning of my headstand practice, I would often just go through the motions of what I saw: placing the top of your head directly on the ground and lightly clasping your hands behind your head. At the time I wasn’t entirely aware of how to engage those damaged muscles and therefore I couldn’t find a suitable place to put my weight. I’d end up going for the full headstand regardless and end up contorting my body in ways I didn’t think were possible (or very good for you).

I might have kicked up, throwing my legs into the air with them flapping wildly and eventually have to give up and bring them down. Or, I might have never have arrived at finding any balance and have to twist my whole body away from walls, household items and at times, even other yogis. Eventually, with a proper and consistent practice, a while lotta self-love and definitely some patience, I began to build the strength in the areas I needed it most.

I feel the most important thing I learned was asking myself: “What am I doing wrong?” “How can I improve this pose?” “What do I need to build (strength, flexibility, balance) in order to improve this pose?” Most importantly, I asked myself this without any anger, blame or criticism for not being able to achieve headstand. Instead, I objectively looked at the reasons I couldn’t pull off the pose (my old injuries) and began to implement training that could help build strength and balance.

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I also kept in mind that some training could actually create more pain and discomfort, like staying away from too many vinyasas due to the immense strain it places on those damaged muscle. All in all, I discovered for myself that yoga is truly a self-practice and a learning process. I often remind my students, and myself, don’t practice yoga for any other reason than the fact that it makes you feel good!

Has working toward something in your yoga practice changed you in some other, unexpected positive way? Share below!

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