In honor of Halloween I thought it appropriate to write about something scary! Since handstand can be scary for so many it seems a good direction to go. I was terrified of handstand for years. It would literally make me sweat just thinking about it and my legs felt so darn heavy.
I got over my fear during my 500 hour yoga training and many hours of working deeply into my hamstrings. The hamstrings hold fear and once you dissolve some of that stress living in your body it is much easier to kick up into a handstand.
I used to think having strong arms was the most important piece to landing a handstand. While having strength in the upper body is important, unleashing stagnant fear in the hamstrings will help float the legs right up.
Some have the opinion that tight hamstrings are the result of fear of expressing the truest self. Perhaps there is a fear of taking a step forward in life, showing our true power and creativity.
Abandonment, neglect and a loveless environment can also cause tight hamstrings in infants that can last into adulthood. When we experience this type of stress or fear we tighten our hamstring muscles to prepare for fight or flight. This is an instinctual survival mechanism deeply rooted in our sympathetic nervous system. The result is the immediate tightening and contraction of the upper and lower back body including neck, shoulders, buttocks, hamstrings, calves and feet muscles.
Our body holds all of the information of the mind in our cells. From the moment of our birth, we experience physical and emotional stress, sadness, anxiety or trauma to which the body reacts typically by tensing up or hardening in the muscles. As babies it was easier to quickly relax and recover once again, but as we grow older this ability seems to diminish.
The good news is there is something you can do to unlock the tightness in the hamstrings, dissolve fear and pop up into that handstand. As fear dissolves on the yoga mat it also becomes easier to confront in life.
To get deep into the hamstrings grab a yoga strap and a blanket. Lie on your back and extend one leg on the ground with the other leg up and the strap around the ball of the foot. Hold the strap with your hands, feel the hamstring stretch and breathe for 5 minutes. Do both sides.
After you do this try kicking up into a handstand on the wall.
Rest in child’s pose after each attempt and feel the exhilaration of working through and dissolving some of the fear that has been living in your body. Give it a kiss goodbye and know that you got this!!
If you are nervous about trying this on your own or not sure what you are doing grab a friend or experienced yoga instructor. We are always happy to help here at Mint!
by Heather Feather