Last week in the Thursday night Inversion Series we practiced supported shoulderstand. Click here if you’d like to check out Jason Crandall’s sequence for warming up for shoulderstand. This inversion is one of the classics. It’s also one of the poses that’s caused me the most struggle. Over the years, I’ve used more blankets, less blankets, had my arms strapped, set up at the wall and tried just about every variation of shoulderstand I could find. All in the hopes of making it more comfortable. Some of those props did help. But what helped me the most was not giving up. And practice, practice, practice.

Over the next few weeks, we’ll continue to explore inversions in all of my classes. Inversions are safe and accessible for most able bodied students, and alternatives and variations exist for students with physical limitations. There are some cautions and considerations that need to be understood before going upside down and it’s always best to learn inversions from a qualified teacher. The benefits of inversions include a change of perspective, overcoming fear, core stability, and reversing the body’s relationship to gravity. And they’re fun! So I encourage you to come to class and give them a try.

Transitions are a fundamental part of life. Some are obvious, like graduating from high school, and some are more subtle, like the pause between the inhale and exhale. For the next month or so in my classes I’ll be teaching how to stay present during the transitions between poses and the transitions that turn us upside down (think getting into inversions like headstand).

When we focus our attention on the actions that take us from one moment to the next, we create space for awareness. Just like a graduation ceremony, the act of observing our transitions gives us time to reflect on what came before the present moment and what’s possible in the next one. The future can be tomorrow or the following exhale or the choice of where to place our feet.

Remaining present is a tricky business. We can’t orchestrate our every movement or thought. We do need some things to be automatic. It would be cumbersome to have to think about each footstep. But to be on auto pilot all the time doesn’t serve us either.

Practicing yoga provides an opportunity to examine our habits and patterns. I like to say that a good habit puts you in the groove and a bad habit leaves you in a rut. The yoga mat is a safe place to experience how your habits influence what you do in your practice and in your life. Are you ready to slow down and notice where you’re headed?