Some students hurl themselves into the pose--little or no mental blocks stopping them--and topple over without a worry. Some nervously stay in the very first stages, and decide that they aren't ready yet, instead opting to work on building strength first. Some try over and over to force their body into the pose, getting more and more frustrated with each violent kick up, forgetting all alignment cues. Some, who may not even feel comfortable in headstand yet (classically taught before forearm stand), take their time working their way into the pose, and may even find a moment of flight. And yet others ask questions, want to know more, and begin working with their body and exploring to see what they can do.
At various points in my time as a student of yoga, I've been all of these people. I've been scared to try, I've tried to force myself into poses, I've known that I couldn't do something yet, and at times I've actually been patient, listened, and surprised myself. I'm still all of these people, depending on the pose, the day, or the class. And this is one of the things that I love about yoga--it forces us to learn about and explore all of the different aspects of our personalities and of our minds.
After one of my classes when we worked on this pose this week, one of my fellow teachers who had been in class came up to me and said, "leggo my ego!!" And it got me thinking about ego and what a big part it plays when we start to get into what we often call "advanced poses" in our practice. It's interesting how just the idea of an "advanced asana" can bring up a whole new host of issues for some of us.
Then, as I was searching for inspiring images of this amazing pose, I came across the picture above, of Margaret Stivers, a "wingwalker" who performs dance-like routines on the wings of planes. Not surprisingly, a lot of her poses look like yoga poses, especially her version of forearm stand (pictured above). But what I really love is what she says when asked what it's like up there on the wing of the plane:
"The wind is an invisible dancing partner, pushing against you. When someone pushes against you, you push back. That's what it's like to be on the wing, pushing against this invisible source and working with it, not against it. There has to be a trust in the wind—and if there's turbulence, sometimes it drops you."
To me, this sounds a lot like yoga and the experience of working with the mind, the ego, and our own fears. The mind pushes against us, and we push back. But instead, we should work with the mind (and with the ego), instead of working against it. We should embrace the moment, let go, and trust in our abilities.
So give that challenging pose a try, and even if there's turbulence and you get dropped, you can always get back up...
If Margaret Stivers can do it on the wing of a flying plane, we can all eventually do a version of this pose on the ground, right? ;)