Rachel Goes Upside Down - Or, How I Trusted Myself Enough to Try an Inversion

I live in a plus-sized body. And I do yoga. But I never thought I would do any form of headstand.

The class on inversions in my 230-hour yoga study was pretty much a bust for me. The most I could do was the inverted "L" at the wall for short periods of time. It didn't feel very good in my body. The teacher told me that with practice, I would grow stronger.

But, I've been battling a shoulder injury off an on for the past three years. And putting all my body weight into my hands hurt my wrists. It didn't help that I was afraid that my body was too big. Too clumsy. Not strong enough.

I was the only one in that class that was not able to go upside down. By that time I had been working on focusing on what my body could do, rather than what it couldn't, but what a bummer. What a drag to be the fat yoga teacher trainee who couldn't get her rear end over her head. I would be lying if I said that I wasn't disappointed.

I walked out of that class resigned to let inversions go. I figured that, at best, I was going to have to settle for teaching myself how to do an arm balance like crow.

Until today.

Today, I went to a Body Positive Yoga workshop taught by Amber Karnes. Today, I enjoyed a heart-felt practice with fourteen yogis who were there to explore what their bodies could do, rather than what they couldn't.

Today, I went upside down.

As the workshop drew to a close, Amber suggested we tackle inversions. The room was full of plus-sized yogis and we were all hesitant. Amber assured us inversions were possible. She showed us how we could use two chairs, a mat, and the wall to go upside down in a "headless headstand." She called for a volunteer. The quiet woman next to me who had blanched at the original suggestion of inverting asked to go first. She was nervous, but resolved.

Amber showed her how to put her head between the seats of the chairs, how to hold on, how to lift one leg. Then, Amber held the lifted leg in space while the woman about to be upside down kicked her other leg upward. In a matter of seconds, this woman who didn't think she could go upside down had her feet in the air. Applause and cheers filled the room.

Amber helped her down and the smile on the woman's face was brilliant. Grinning from ear to ear. She was glowing from doing something she didn't think she could.

More volunteers stepped up. Each one was able to be upside down for as long as suited them. I knew I had to try too.

Confession: It's exhilarating.

I was upside down today. I was able to pull my feet away from the wall and balance in space. And for that time, I was in my body. (Side note: I don't remember much about what was going on around me while I was upside down. For a woman who is always watching herself as if she were an observer, always worrying about if her shirt is riding up, always worried that she looks dumb, this shocks me. Maybe I need to be upside down more often.)

My lesson from today? My body is not the problem when a pose doesn't work for me. It's the pose. The problem to solve is finding a different variation or some props that make the pose accessible.

My body is not a problem to be solved.

Thanks, Amber.