Turn Your World Upside Down

Yoga has a funny way of turning your life upside down – when and what you eat depends entirely on when you are taking class, your I-pod on shuffle is a weird combination of Green Day, Justin Timberlake and Sanskrit mantras, and people stare at you funny in the airport, and you stare back wondering why they aren’t standing on their head too…

Inversions literally turn everything upside down, and are especially fun to do when you are surrounded by trees, or are in the middle of Times Square (which is only slightly tolerable when you have a yoga practice…)

It took me about a year to kick up to the wall in handstand. I was getting really frustrated with not being able to get up, and was travelling a lot for work at the time, so I would practice hopping in my hotel rooms. I was in Boston the day I finally got up. I had a loooooong day of conducting back-to back interviews, and couldn’t wait to get back to my room. I got up on my second hop and knocked a painting off the wall – some random hotel room art, nothing significant. A piece of the frame broke off – I hung the picture back up and hid the broken piece of frame – but I couldn’t wipe the smile off my face.  I knew my world was changed forever!

In Sharon Gannon’s essay on inversions, she states “Turning upside down improves physical health, slows down the aging process, tones the muscles and the skin, improves circulation and respiration, improves digestion, increases bone density, strengthens the immune system, reduces stress and anxiety, increases self-confidence, improves concentration, stimulates chakras and makes you feel tranquil, happier, optimistic and spiritually oriented.”

Psychologically we begin to perceive the world in a different way, everything we know to be “true” and “real” is turned on its head.  In a spiritual context, when practicing shoulderstand we are activating the Vishuddha chakra, associated with viewing ourself as a holy being, and in headstand, the Sahasrara Chakra, karmically associated with our relationship with God.  And when better to pray to God that you don’t fall then when you are standing on your head!  But finding this divinity in ourselves and all other beings during these poses is just the beginning…inversions and other asanas are just an entry point to bringing this devotion into the rest of our lives, even when we are right-side up…

I recently came back from Bali – where my life was literally turned upside down. There is a 12 hour time difference. It was 90 degrees and humid EVERY DAY. Everything moves in Bali time instead of a New York minute. But most importantly – every ounce of the lives of the people who live there is an offering. 70% of their earnings are spent on the flowers, baskets, and food used for offerings. As you walk around throughout the day you constantly see people giving offerings and saying mantra to the Gods. When I woke up in the morning and walked through the hotel grounds to leave, I would see offerings everywhere, and as I came home, around 11:30 or midnight, I would see them walking around with offerings again! Just before leaving for a long day trip, our car was stopped in front of the hotel to bless it, and then the offering sits in the windshield of the car the rest of the day. They have blessings and holy days for everything – from the food they eat and the sun in the sky, to the metal used for tools – one day while we were there was dedicated to cars and electronics – since this is what metal is now used for. EVERY. OUNCE. OF. THEIR. BEING.

But inversions are a good start…

asato_ma

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