Monday, December 17, 2007

Handstand Practice

Lately I've become obsessed with doing handstands. So obsessed in fact, I haven't really thought about blogging that much. I know, I know, if God had meant for us to be upside down she would have put our feet on our wrists. The thing of it is though, I think I'm on to something. Bear with me. This is just the way my brain works.

So in Yoga each week, we do handstands. At first, I was was like, "No way. I'm not 10 anymore. Besides, I have two perfectly good feet to stand on thank you very much..."

But the thing about doing anything in a group is that even if nothing is said (and not a word was that first day in Yoga class when everyone started turning themselves upside down without a second thought) is you start feeling a little self conscious because everyone else in the room is upside down and you are not. So initially I started doing handstands purely as a result of peer pressure. Plain and simple. I mister, super individual, think for himself, went to yoga class each week, lined up on the wall and turned myself over when commanded. Which by the way in case you were wondering was not nearly as easy as writing about it some months later.

But then one day I went swimming after a Yoga class that had us focus on inversions. (In Yoga, headstands and handstands form a subset of the practice called "inversion".) Anyway, at the pool that day I noticed something I'd never noticed before. I was aware of my feet in the water. I know this may not seem like a big thing to those of you who grew up swimming but to an "adult onset swimmer" (you can find a complete definition for this term on Fedofsky's blog which is where I stole it from) like myself, this was nothing short of miraculous. You see in my initial forays into the world of triathlon, swimming was definitely my limiter. And one reason for my being limited, as the woman who swam in my lane with me at masters swimming back then called to my attention, was that my feet were pointing straight down toward the bottom of the pool. So for all practical purposes, while I was a drag racer on land, capable of high speed in both the bike and the run, I was a dragster in the water with both of my braking parachutes open and deployed as I tried to swim.

You know, you would think a person could feel something dragging their feet in the water like that. But I didn't. Chalk it up to the survival instinct. I was so concerned with just making it from one end of the pool to the other without actually drowning at some point in between, what my feet were doing was not really high on my list of priorities. Keeping my arms moving so I wouldn't sink to the bottom of the pool and drown was.

So you can imagine my surprise when I was in the pool and could actually feel the tops of my feet pressing against the water when I kicked. But what was even better, I could tell that my toes were pointed!!! Now I suspect the pointed toes had been going on for a while and this was also due to Yoga. In yoga, aside from sitting cross-legged aka Lotus pose, you sit on the tops of your feet. A lot. This is probably where the actual flexibility for toe pointing came from. But the sensation of pointing toes, that came from the handstands. Here's my theory. When you are upside down, your brain, marvelous little computer that it is says, "Hey I'm gonna need some balance and sensation in the feet if this guy is going to be spending time upside down so I don't fall over." And because falling over would SO suck that's what it does. It creates new little neural pathways connecting it to your feet so that it can keep your body upright and balanced whether you are on your feet or on your hands. And what is one of the key skills in swimming?? Balance.

So that's my theory and I'm sticking to it. So now at home every time I walk by the front door I do a handstand. Just like turning over a new leaf, you never know what you'll find. On my blog until I get over my new obsession, you'll find video. Handstand videos...

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