From Beginner To Handstand: Taking Your Weekly Yoga Practice Into Advanced

From Beginner To Handstand: Taking Your Weekly Yoga Practice Into Advanced

A beginner yogi can make impressive progress over a few months; this is the Yoga journey of a dedicated practitioner who started taking classes last year and after 6 months confidently ends his practice with advanced inversions

It was out of coincidence that the back pain conversation came up one evening and I suggested specific Yoga and breath-work for the lower back. We scheduled in a private class within the following week, and since he felt the experience was so rewarding and was comfortable to have such dedicated attention, we quickly up-graded to two or three weekly sessions.

The first Yoga class was rather confusing due to the complexity of the poses, sequencing, besides the lack of technique and anatomy vocabulary. Every body part and move had to be broken down to basics so we could identify the causes of stress and strain in the body, understand and build a practice towards improvement. The real challenge became to strengthen and properly align the office’s bad posture in combination with gaining first awareness, and next flexibility mainly in the hamstrings, pelvis, and QL’s (quadratus lumborum).

From then onwards, each Yoga class has focused on developing the body and mind connection as much as discipline, of course with the advantage of having private Yoga sessions there is a different challenge to achieving goals. The body’s response to having a Yoga professional monitor every breath and move, is far more rewarding and brings steadier progress on various levels.

Over an eight-month period my client went from beginner with a chronic back pain issue, to a confident pain free hand and headstand yogi who has learnt how to listen to his body, observing strengths and weaknesses, in embracing the feel good novelties Yoga has to offer.

Having a closer look at the main muscle groups and joints which over the years can potentially cause issues and paining in the body, and after listening to and carefully assessing my client’s anatomy, I have isolated key areas of focus broken down below:

QL (quadratus lumborum) The lumbar area has been and still is the main concern, being proactively targeted and addressed with specific Yoga asanas tailored to release physical as much as emotional stress, tension and tightness in the psoas, slowly restoring muscle tissue and strength in the QL and elasticity in the hip flexors mainly. A long fifteen-years of office based work, besides school and college days in which sit bones or proper posture were never before mentioned brings up accumulated strain, locks, and even possible injury to this very important part of the spine and pelvis.

The shortened and tight hamstrings are often associated with tall people and men

Little awareness do we seem to have about posture, and the repercussions of high impact sports such as running, cycling, playing tennis or basketball. One might have an overall athletic structure and good fitness levels, however the importance of focusing on flexibility and counter stretches after regular workouts seems to be overlooked. Gaining length in the hamstring area is slowly happening on a physical level, and gaining patience is happening on an emotional level. One can say it’s a win-win, although the work required at times makes you re-consider how dramatically important breath becomes, and how different the hamstrings respond when one breathes deeply aware.

Genetics play an important role both in our structure, posture, strengths and weaknesses. The responsibility of learning ourselves remains our own. Certainly having a regular Yoga practice, and directly enjoying its benefits seems like a far better option than post surgery or posttraumatic physiotherapy. My client is not the first person I come across who is alarmed by the medical flag ups of operation theatres; neck, hip, pelvis, knee, rotator cuff… before any of the joints get chronic, irreversible damage, taking on Yoga from a therapeutic approach and focusing on the holistic healing aspect breath and movement have to offer will help mobilise the hip, assist in the rotation, lubrication and openness of the joint.

The spine’s correct alignment and mobilisation of its vertebrae are also subdued to genetic inheritance besides lifestyle’s tear and wear, accumulated tension and stress leading to energy blockages along the thirty three vertebrae within the spine’s different regions. Long hours spent in meeting rooms and passivity towards caring for spinal mobilisation led to recurring issues, resulting in painful and lengthy spasms. Having an extraordinary long back, which lacks mobility in the cervical and thoracic region, requires dedicated breath work and hours of a gentle approach towards slowly creating space and stability, by opening the heart and throat chakra. The shoulder socket is slowly gaining backward rotation and with the use of props such as Yoga Wheel as well as blocks, he is now standing strong in a wheel pose.

Breathing is something that we often take for granted and hardly pay the required attention to

My client only recently started listening to his breath and becoming aware of the effects of correct breathing and oxygen thoroughly distributed across the whole body (enhanced performance, control) and the mind, bringing calmness, peace and quiet. Since soon after starting Yoga sessions, his diet has also been modified to vegetarian, with a very limited alcohol intake. This has over the months become a full transformation in which stamina, and energy have played a main role.

It was extremely interesting to observe how differently male and female bodies gain or lack strength, or have or lack flexibility. My first physical discipline was classical dance, which throughout the years caused far more injuries in a very young body than I could have ever imagined; dance teaches you discipline as much as competition and resilience to cope with the demands, or else you are not good enough, simply not talented.

When I started attending Yoga classes, I had to retrain the brain not to compete, but to listen to a breath flow; which was as awkward as hard. I had to regain mobility and strength in many areas of my body, which had not been taken care of and were torn apart. This was when I learnt about one’s own body in a non-competitive way. This is when I started to realize I had to learn myself through on a physical, and on an emotional level.

Coming from a long lost athletic background, my client has had to develop technique as much as patience towards mastering advanced asanas such as inversions and arm balances. Luckily, his naturally solid shoulder girdle and upper body structure has quickly built up, significantly strengthened, together with a mindful breath and core control over gravity. Mastering either handstand or headstand without support and feeling the blood rushing through the whole body towards the head, not only gives him a change of perspective, but fills him up with excitement and strive through until our next class.

The controversy stands in balancing out the lumbar spine and the lazy response of its muscle tissue, besides engaging in powerful confidence building, highly energizing vinyasa flowing routines around all warrior poses; mind-body control syncs in with breath and endurance.

Starting off a Yoga practice with a release in the lower back pain as main focus and acknowledging what a calm state the mind is on, and the Yoga effects on stress levels after only a few months of practice,  is a sign of a true connection with the philosophy and self; one my client is proud to recommend to anyone suffering from: “office jobs”, “standing on their feet or driving for long hours”, because it’s amazingly rewarding and it helps healing yourself.

Carla Julian – Yoga Creative. Trained in Hatha Yoga, Children’s Yoga, Pilates & Therapeutics; is also Mindfulness & Academic Performance Coach – Director of the UAE based Yoga & Pilates company Move On Yoga

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