I never thought I would accomplish pressing to handstand through a pike. Finally, I have nailed this advanced yoga pose. Watch my video below and never say never!
When I was a child gymnast I could press to a handstand through a split, but as an adult yogi the handstand press was quite difficult for me to get back– my body, emotions, and psyche rejected my strong efforts to do this advanced yoga posture. On occasion from a standing forward bend start position I would try to include a handstand press through a v-split into my physical yoga practice (the legs come wide apart after take off). I thought that if I could do the v-split press as a child from sitting on the floor, then as an adult I should in the least be able to do it from a standing forward bend. I achieved the handstand press through a split rather quickly relative to how long it took me to do it through the pike.
Pressing through a pike (legs tightly squeezed together) has been a totally different story. In the past, I rarely practiced the pike press because I would get discouraged (in yoga there is a Sanskrit word dvesha, which means repulsion from things we do not like). Only sometimes would I give pressing to handstand through a pike a try when I felt like pushing myself.
Recently I watched Pattabhi Jois’ video with David Swenson, Richard Freeman, Eddie Stern and his other top teachers. These outstanding yogis planted a spark of inspiration in me. Then I saw another video with Briony Smith in which she practices inversions in her lingerie. As the YouTube yoga video with the highest hits, I was told to watch Briony Smith’s video for the raciness factor. When I finally saw the video, I forgot that she was in black lace underwear. I was rather in awe of her strength, agility, discipline stability, and focus.
A few weeks ago, I attended Briony Smith’s inversions workshop in NYC at Pure Yoga. I struggled to master the press to handstand throughout the class, exerting more than a ton of effort. Thereafter I took several days off from my physical practice because the challenge I made out of the pose and the pressure I put on myself to master it left me mentally, physically, and emotionally exhausted.
The other day, in order to show a client the alignment of the body in a handstand (he is working on kicking into it) I decided to demonstrate the press to handstand for him so that he could see the strength of the core, legs, arms, chest, and shoulders, involved in balancing in any handstand. I wanted him to see each stage in slow motion– handstands demand moving in slow motion. I started on a block to make it easier for myself. I was quite relaxed, neither thinking about accomplishing anything for myself nor about advancing my practice. The question was how might I be helpful to this man. Low and behold, up I soared.
As J.Krishnamurti once said in one of his talks:
“It is only when I can forget the total acquisition of knowledge, wipe away all the information that I have acquired, which can be used later—it is only then that I can find something new. I cannot find anything new with the burden of the past, with the burden of knowledge, which is again the obvious psychological fact. And I am saying this because we approach reality, that extraordinary state of creativity, with all the burden of society, with the conditioning of a given culture, and so we never discover anything new. Surely, that which is the sublime, the eternal, must always be new, timeless, and for the new to come into being, there cannot be any endeavor in the field in which effort is exercised as self-improvement or self-fulfillment. It is only when such effort totally ceases that the other is possible.”
Two days after teaching that lesson, I thought that maybe I should put the handstand press into my Saturday practice without the assist of a block. With total focus up I went again from the floor! When I finished my practice, I grabbed my video camera to see if I could do it again. Wow. Twice in one morning I pressed through a pike into a handstand, a yoga pose I thought I would never do especially at this age! My mind, body, emotions, and psychological circuits had all synced up despite my denial of my capabilities, and the internal obstacles I had ingrained in myself. At last I pressed to a handstand through a pike, not by effort, but by a subconscious resolve that I had planted a long time ago that I could and would do this yoga pose. And then I surrendered.