28 at 28: crow pose, chaturanga and handstand

Number 13 on my 28 at 28 list was to “hold crow pose for ten seconds”. When I made my birthday list, I wasn’t anticipating the yoga intensive that I’ve enjoyed over the past few months to become a reality. Practicing one day a week versus up to six days a week will take your practice to new levels. They don’t call it a practice for nothing.

Then a few Mondays ago, I had a revolutionary yogi morning. I was suddenly the owner of something I never possessed before: arm strength. I felt crazy strong and stable in my down dog. Instead of descending to my yoga mat via “knees, chest and chin”, I was rocking a modified chaturanga dandasana – lowering myself to the ground in a full plank position. And more importantly, I had the courage to try some arm balances with serious success – including crow:

(photo c/o nishkama yoga’s site)

I had been building up to holding the pose by standing on a block and softening my potential fall with a bolster (think a big yoga pillow). That morning I forgot to grab my safety pillow, but decided to go for it anyways. And after some wriggling to get my knees on my arm sweet spot, I was up in the pose you see above. I didn’t make it look as graceful as the beautiful Lynn Marie above, but I successfully held it for ten seconds twice before it was time to move on. That’s a 28 at 28 success! That same morning, I progressed more into side crow and runningman than ever before… and then my arms screamed at me for two days. Totally worth it!

Since hitting crow, the pose that has been the torn in my side was handstand. A lot of my previous concern of getting into the pose was my lack of arm strength. Since that’s apparently no longer a problem, I’ve been doing a lot of preliminary poses to get used to the sensation of being in the proper position:


What’s really been holding me back from getting up? Fear. The fear of falling. The fear of hurting myself. The fear of failing. I haven’t been the only person letting fear keep them out of their handstand (read this fabulous post by the one and only Katy Widrick). And after that post, Katy and I vowed via Twitter to get into handstand before 2011 was over.

As though my yoga teacher knew of my online promise, yesterday’s Advancing Practice Class was all about inversions. Laura challenged us to take our inversions to the next level. After playing around with headstand against the wall, I noticed my yogi karma partner Bethany handstanding against the wall with two bolsters supporting her head. I suddenly knew this was the day for me to conquer the fear.

I worked with Bethany for awhile. She showed me where to place my head on the bolster that would give me enough room without kicking a hole in the wall, where to place my hands beside the bolsters and other little tricks. But it was still up to me to kick myself up there. And it took several rounds, but eventually I found the physical and mental strength I needed to be upside down on my own. Once I successfully got there, Bethany said, “push the elephant away!” to remind me to focus on pushing the floor away to help lengthen my pose. Once up there, I was able to hang out for a good half a minute to a minute without issue. To be honest, I didn’t want to come down!! I left class feeling amazing and it completely changed my thinking for the day.

LONG STORY SHORT: My yoga teacher always says that handstand is all about believing that we can hold ourselves up, after we spend so much time holding up other people all day long. I didn’t believe I could kick up into the position – much like how I question my ability to be successful in other areas of my life. Finally having that support – via a good yogi friend, a few pillows and a wall – showed me that I do have the strength to do great things. So now, not only do I have some arm strength for the first time in my life, I’m starting to believe in myself again for the first time in a long time.

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  1. Calvin says:

    Congratulations! Such a great accomplishment! I’ve only done this as a move from the P90X – Yoga X DVD. I surprisingly held the move for about 6 seconds before falling over, landing on my head and regaining consciousness about 10 minutes later.

  2. Holly says:

    This is awesome Alicia! Good for you and thanks for sharing.

    I share many of the same anxieties over these poses, but I also agree more practice does help. So in the meantime I try to stay patient. Last night I managed a “wheel” pose for a few seconds, which had been a “scary” pose for me as well.

  3. allison says:

    congrats to you! so happy you accomplished this of your list! Maybe I should try some yoga – I’ve always been meaning to and have tried a few classes here and there but haven’t ever committed.

  4. Katy Widrick says:

    OK, you’ve (again) inspired me. I’m going to tell my yoga instructor about my handstand goal and see if she can help. I never thought about sort of climbing the wall with my feet before — I’m going to try that today!

  5. jobo says:

    Girl, you are amazing!! I bow to you…seriously, you are gaining such strength and learning all of these advanced yoga moves, and honestly, I bet you would never have gone into yoga as much as you have if you were REALLY heavily focused on running (or any other workout), and you are developing such strength and that mind/body connection. I am super impressed. Rock those arms!!

  6. Jess says:

    This is AWESOME!!!!! You are KILLING that 28 by 28 list and are learning a ton about yourself – physically but even more so, mentally which I LOVE. Your confidence screams through this post and I love, love, love to hear it!! And I’m damn impressed by all these poses you can hold, you are SO STRONG!!
    PS. I have to agree on the “practice” piece – now that I’m doing barre n9ne religiously at least 5 if not 6 days a week, I am seeing major strength and endurance improvements and I love it!!

  7. Sara says:

    Ugh. Crow is my arch nemesis. I just don’t have the arm strength yet. I’m sure I’ll get there but it’s extra frustrating when I show my husband the basics and he gets right up into it like it’s no big deal. Jerk.

    *end rant* 🙂

  8. Jen @ Why CLE? says:

    Go you! CLEguy is proud of you too!

    I’m struggling with the arm strength poses myself, but I figure as I continue the weights routine, I should eventually get there. And I second Holly on wheel pose…that one scares me too!

  9. elle says:

    Congrats on turning things upside down with that rad new arm strength! Next time you’re in crow, try “flointing” your foot if you’re not already – aka like Barbie feet, reaching thru the balls of the feet but pulling the toes back. It helps balance the energy of your legs and you’ll be holding that pose for SIXTY seconds in no time! (:

  10. Bethany Thomas says:

    I had no idea how much was going on for you, Alicia!! I just thought we were handstanding together. I thought you were amazing Monday. Now, amazing times twenty!!!!! Thank you for being you!

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