Yoga Theology: The Strength to Go Upside-Down

After twelve years of practicing yoga, I knew that it would happen eventually. It was inevitable. When I was teaching, I could easily avoid it. But a few weeks ago, it happened.

The instructor, standing in the middle of the room, said, "Darian, you want to try a handstand?"

He pointed to where he was standing. There was no wall where I could walk my feet to "kick up" into the handstand. There was no mat. There was just an empty floor, encircled by yoga students.

I gave the same answer I'd been saying to handstands and headstands for twelve years: "NO."

The instructor seemed surprised. He started to say something, then stopped. "That's okay. You don't have to do anything you don't want to do." He called on a much braver soul than I, who practically ran to the middle of the room, to kick up onto her hands.

After class, I approached him to give one or more of my default explanations of why I do not practice handstands and headstands. I wanted to protect my neck. I'd read that inversions could be dangerous. I got the same benefits by just doing a shoulder stand. I just plain didn't want to stand on my head or hands.

But I didn't fall back on any of those excuses. For the first time, I told the truth of why I wouldn't go upside down: "I'm afraid."

This led to a discussion about fear, the unknown, and self-protection. I realized that I was avoiding something that could not only benefit my body and mind but could also be fun. Then he said something that took me by surprise.

You're strong enough.

Me? Strong? What? How could he know that? Then it made sense. For two months, he'd been the instructor watching me practice different poses. He had learned, by observing, what my capabilities were when I couldn't see them myself. I had gotten so caught up in the mental fear of an inversion that I didn't even realize I'd gained the physical strength over the years to go upside down. My fear had blinded me to my abilities.

Hear ye, hear ye: I am not suggesting that everyone step away from the computer and leap onto your heads or hands without proper instruction. What I do invite us to consider are the words that God spoke to Joshua as he moved into the place of leadership previously held by Moses. Three times, as God provides instructions for leading the Israelites into the promised land, God tells Joshua, "Be strong and very courageous." Joshua had strength and courage within him; it was time for him to draw from those wellsprings, with God's help, to be what God had called him to be. This daunting calling probably made Joshua feel as if he were going "upside down." But God had already given him what he needed for his calling.

As we face the handstands and headstands of life, let us hear God's words afresh. We are strong enough for the tasks ahead of us; we are courageous enough. Take it from someone who has now stood on her head (with the instructor nearby): let go of the fear, and go upside-down.

all good things to each of you,
Pastor Darian

P.S. If you live in the Mississippi delta, please check out Delta Yoga! (Link is also on the side bar of this blog.