Befriending My Nemesis

“Practice and all is coming”, they say. Phhhhhwwwwwhateverrrrr. 

My ongoing journey towards the elusive unsupported handstand is documented in this time lapse clip. I WILL DO IT for more than 5 seconds one day. As a kid I used to walk around on my hands and drop into unsupported handstands all the time. And then at some point I started practicing them against a wall and since then I simply do not seem to have the capacity to do it away from the wall. I practice, I practice, I rest, I laugh, I fall, I get pissed off and then I try again. I try different tips and different hand placements. Different surfaces. Different moods. Different weight distribution. And it eludes me. 

Headstand – no worries – totally stable and steady and happy away from any support. Strong, safe, almost unthinking in how natural and good it feels. Elbow balance, getting there. Handstand. Not today. Maybe tomorrow. 

They also say that the asana that eludes or annoys you is the one that you probably need the most. I don’t doubt that. And as with yoga in general, it’s got very little to do with flawless execution of a perfect posture, and more to do with the ability to maintain a compassionate and non-judgemental attitude of ahimsa – not just when flowing effortlessly in and out of your favourite shapes, but when you are repeatedly knocking your head, your pride and your confidence against a brick wall (or in my case today, a generously lush lawn). 

It’s at this point that the philosophy of yoga really comes into play and the embodiment of the philosophy has the opportunity to kick in. The “witness effect” – same as in meditation or mindfulness – when you observe as if from a distance and simply note what’s happening, with an attempt at neutrality, observing with interest but uninvolvement any emotions or patterns or sensations or thoughts that may arise.  

Easier said than done, especially when a seven year old is watching with great interest to see how Mummy reacts to not achieving what she set out to do. It really helped, in the end, because it was almost as if I was retraining my own perfectionist attitude and goal-orientated mindset and my expectation of Getting It Right, and I actually managed to just relax into it completely. I kicked up again and again. I fell again and again. I shrieked and I groaned and I sighed deeply and I giggled and started again. And it was as if my son was giving me the words that I needed to be telling myself – words that I would have said to anyone I love who was trying something and needed encouragement: “You’re doing so well, Mummy!”. “Keep going, Mum, great job” and “wow, you are really practicing hard”. In the end, I kept on with those words, even when he had got bored of watching me doing he same thing over and over (this clip is just one of many, many attempts). 

The wonderful lessons of yoga. Letting go of the desired outcome and the self-criticism and perceived failure at not achieving it, and instead just enjoying the fun and the privilege of kicking up on the lawn on a gorgeous lazy Sunday afternoon. Good enough for me. 

#patience #patience #patience #irritation #frustration #nemesis #bloodyeffinghandstand #giggles #realisation #lovethelesson #acceptance #yogapracticenotyogaperfect #practiceandalliscoming #yogawithnicci 

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Life Lessons Learned from Riding a Bike

I’m busy going through the wonderful, if harrowing, rite of passage of starting to teach my 4 year-old how to ride a proper bicycle. Harrowing for me, that is – he is as fearless and plucky as can be. I have it on good advice from my sister (mum of 4 and, along with my BFF Cath – another mum of 4 – my go-to person in most questions in the child-rearing department) that the 2 or so years he’s spent on his ‘balance bike’ (otherwise known as a JD Bug, or a ‘Lady Bike’ as my Danny fondly and misguidedly refers to it) will ensure a smooth and painless transition to a proper bike, and that the stabilisers / training wheels supplied with the bike are wholly unnecessary and will in fact have the undesired effect of making him question his balance and start to rely on them instead. We’re both willing to try this theory out and so far so good, in that I’m spending long afternoons running up and down the driveway and path outside our house, hanging onto the saddle while I push him along, his little legs pumping up and down like pistons but not doing very much in terms of actually propelling him forward. I’m getting fit, he’s having a ball, and I’m confident that it’s just a matter of time before he gets the hang of it.

This whole experience has made me think about some very simple similarities between riding a bike and living a happy life. Indulge me, if you will, this is hardly rocket science.

You need to have a good idea about where you’re going, and you need to keep your eyes on the road, but at the same time you’ve got to expect, and be prepared for, obstacles to crop up when you least expect, want or need them to.

When they do, inevitably, occur, it seems that there are two ways of dealing with them. One is to tighten your grip on the handlebars, squeeze your face into a tight ball, hold your breath, speed up and try to blast through whatever is in your way. You may get through to the other side but you may well get hurt, and it’s not going to be much fun. The other is to loosen your grip slightly, slow down, take a few deep breaths, and have a good look for detours or ways around the blockage. Maybe even stop and take stock for a while. Perhaps put your bike down, lie back against a tree and listen to the birds for a while. Maybe go back to where you came from and try again from a slightly different angle. But go easy and go gentle.

I guess it’s all about not being too hell-bent on staying on a chosen course, but being prepared for things to change along the way, and finding a way to adapt so that you still get to your destination. Or choosing a new destination altogether.

Balance is an obvious one that is hugely beneficial. Not going too far one way or the other, but finding a middle ground that works for you. Or even if you’re not a middle ground kind of person, at least knowing where it is so you can get back to it if you need to.

The ability to recover, to dust yourself off and get back in the saddle if you hit a tree. As many times as necessary. Although if it’s the same tree you keep hitting, maybe it’s time to take a good long look at the path you’ve chosen and trying to figure out why you keep making the same mistake over and over.

It all makes me realise how this parenting thing is just so much more complex than going through the motions of getting the kids to eat, drink, brush teeth, bath, ride a bike, walk, talk etc but that ultimately you are their role model for much more important lessons. It simultaneously terrifies me and thrills me. The pressure! – especially when I am still learning so many lessons myself each day and have a semi-infinite number more to learn. And then I remind myself to loosen my grip slightly, show a little more flexibility, and instead of focusing solely on the destination, to live in the moment and enjoy the beautiful ride.