"Do or do not. There is no try." ~ Yoda
While Yoda is no yoga guru (despite the similar sounding name), his advice is sound. So, I chose to do something. I did handstands. For 100 days. That's a long time. Here's why I did it and what I learned along the way.
Failure is an option
The reason to do 100 days of handstands was not to land a perfect handstand, believe it or not. It actually came down to changing my limiting beliefs; I decided to move to a growth mindset over fixed mindset about handstands. In case you are unfamiliar with these terms, let me give you a brief, non-scientific overview. A fixed mindset is just as it sounds - when one believes his/her intelligence or talent is 'fixed' at a certain level. This can lead to feeling defeated and giving up when challenged. Growth mindset, on the other hand, is the belief that one can get stronger (academically, athletically, etc.) when faced with challenges. Putting in effort is a must, and failing before succeeding is an inevitability, and an important step in the learning process.
Quick backstory: before becoming a yoga teacher, I hated inversions. They frightened me. I thought it wasn't possible in my body. I made all sorts of excuses why I could not do inversions. Fast-forward to becoming a yoga teacher: I now regularly practice inversions, but have never mastered handstand. I used to tell others, "Oh, I don't think I need to do a handstand to feel complete in my yoga practice." This is true. Handstands do NOT mean you're a better yoga practitioner. BUT, deep down I knew I was hiding behind this excuse because I was afraid of trying...and failing. (Um, fixed mindset well in play.)
So, I decided to challenge myself to #100daysofhandstands. I promised to hold myself accountable by posting each day's attempt on my Instagram stories, hence the hashtag. I recorded myself or had my family members take photos. With a new (growth) mindset about handstands, I put in the work every day.
I worked hard. I fell hard...sometimes really hard. My husband now knows that when he hears a crash in the house, it's most likely me falling out of a handstand. He waits a few seconds for me to yell, "I'm okay!" It's a routine occurrence in our home. I began to accept these stumbles as learning opportunities, and by recording my handstands, I started seeing where I could tighten up or improve the pose. As a hundred days went by, I started seeing progress, (not perfection, which is totally cool with me).
While posting to Instagram daily kept me on track, there are some downsides to social media. Life isn't all rainbows and unicorns, or in the yoga world, life isn't all about perfect handstands. But when you scroll through an Instagram feed, it definitely seems that everyone's got their sh*t together, doesn't it?
With all the filters available, and the ability to edit videos and take screenshots at the ideal moment, we often only see perfection. We lose connection to reality where things are messy. I always did many handstand attempts, and shared the best one of the day on IG. But for the most part, I tried my best to post videos as they occurred (limited editing). One day my 10-year-old son asked me: "Why don't you just take a screenshot when both legs are up? Then you'd look like you've got it." This was a teachable moment (remember growth mindset) as I explained to him that a screenshot of perfection is really just fudging the truth. This was my challenge and I wanted to document it properly. If you have time, watch the video of my upside-down journey.
Be smart about injuries
I always tell my students to know the difference between pain and discomfort. Anything new in yoga may cause some discomfort, but there should not be outrageous pain that will send you to the emergency room. On Day 50, I started feeling pain in my right shoulder. It was around the time that I had begun to work on puppy press handstand, in which you put more weight onto one side of the body as you press up. I tried to ignore the pain, but it lingered. So, I eased off. I didn't stop my handstand challenge because I was invested (also, I'm stubborn), but I did lessen the amount of time that I focused on it. This meant that I had to be okay with some regression so my shoulder could improve. It was frustrating, but necessary.
Do the work
Generally, I enjoyed this challenge, but there were days when I had to drag myself to my mat. Let's be honest, we all have busy lives...and for me, dedicating time to practicing handstands each day wasn't easy. But I kept it up. I even managed to maintain my handstand commitment throughout our family vacation to Scotland and Ireland this summer. Note: castles provide a great backdrop for handstands.
My handstands were improving, but more importantly, this daily commitment helped me shift my perspective. By doing the work, I began to acknowledge and diminish the limiting beliefs I had about my body, my strength and even my age (as in, I'm too old to do this).
So I began to push my inversion boundaries. It started with something as simple as getting away from the wall. If you are new to handstand, or scared of falling, then relying on the wall is comfortable. However, you can't win the race if you stay at the start line. Once you've gained a little confidence, get away from the wall. In my opinion, practicing outside on grass is wonderful since falling feels far less daunting.
Author Seth Godin wrote on his blog: "It turns out that choices lead to habits. Habits become talents. Talents are labeled gifts. You're not born this way, you get this way."
We all have habits. Like making your bed in the morning, or going to a specific yoga/exercise class. Habits are part of our everyday lives. Once you do something for a long enough period of time, it becomes a habit. Setting the goal to do a hundred days of handstands has created a new habit for me...that's why, I'm still doing a handstand a day. Yoda would be proud.