I Held a Handstand For the First Time Yesterday …

… for about 15 seconds. This was a huge deal for me, and not because of why you might think.

I wrote to my two training partners with joy, but didn’t share the backstory, largely because they already know it.

I’d like to do that here, if it may help you navigate your personal waters of unfolding in a body, especially if you are at all like me and don’t vibe with a lot of contemporary fitness models of “just try harder,” but also enjoy the joy of effort and like to try things you’re not good at.

If that’s you: read on.

The handstand wasn’t the exciting part per se.

What was phenomenal about all of this, for me …

About 15 years ago, two climbing accidents in the same year, one on a face in Joshua Tree and one on a steep left leaning finger crack in Yosemite, where I was in way over my head … in both cases, I was super gripped and my feet popped off, and I heard a loud pop in my left shoulder.

On the crack in Yosemite, I felt popping and tearing. It hurt like hell. We rappelled down — didn’t finish the route as I couldn’t lift my throbbing arm really — and I proceeded to “rehab” my arm by …

… drinking beer and popping ibuprofen.

I used to take ibuprofen daily just to keep climbing, a momentary route around my extensor-tendons-on-fire forearms. For years.

This injury, and how I didn’t rehab it at all, left me with a very limited, loose joint capsule, tenuous, nerve-pain-prone left arm.

I had a huge life change at age 28, moved out of my van and into a house in Seattle with my girlfriend, was deeply depressed for a year and then signed up for massage school, as I often joke, out of part motivation but mostly desperation for something different.

In my “new life” of bodywork — which left massage awhile ago and has taken me on a path I never would’ve dreamed of, out of sheer dumb luck — I started moving in a new way.

Bits of yoga, feldenkrais, tai chi, acro yoga, crossfit … lots of dabbling …

And in some of the more overtly strength and mobility-based stuff, I tried handstands.

I was shaky.

“Engage your core.” “Squeeze your glutes.”

Didn’t work, and mostly, it didn’t feel good; it was painful. My left arm.

Pretty much all of it aggravated my shoulder like crazy, as did any pulling like in climbing, or pushing up like in overhead presses.

So, I decided to drop out of that game altogether.

I could see where it was going, which in my mind was: best case scenario, you find a way to “trick” your body into a shape by squeezing tension and making the form fit. Which is really worse case scenario, because now you’re “doing it right” only with shitty internal architecture.

(That’s how I saw it — and still do in certain contexts.)

I backed way, way off of all my training. I dropped out.

I went on sabbatical. My father had passed away, and I left Seattle after 7 years. I went to Mexico, and was experience a significant shift/break in my psyche, twice, and went through several dark psychological periods.

It was here I met a friend with whom I spent a month, and who introduced me to hanging and finding my scapulae that way via the Ido Portal method, and that was a game changer.

My shoulder began to heal.

It’s worth noting that bodywork, up until this point, had also played a huge part: many, many layers of pain and tension and fear released in my body thanks to massage, and Structural Integration, craniosacral and visceral manipulation: the latter three which I practice to this day.

I could go on and on about the training I’ve done the past couple years since Mexico but the gist of it is …

I was done with pain, or most importantly done trying to navigate around myself to try to get somewhere, in training. Even tiny little nagging things: okay, I’m going to do this pose or hold or whatever only to the point where I’m continuing to be really honest in my body.

It’s a funny thing to try to explain over written word, but that’s my best go.

And so, at long last, back to the handstand …

I hadn’t tried to just kick up into a handstand, more than just in passing (which was always a quick flop-and-fail) for years. Because it always hurt my shoulder, and I hated the “squeeze your glutes” and “engage your core” that seems to be some people’s answer to every f’ing movement problem that exists these days 😉

(But really: I didn’t like it, philosophically, the squeezing so much; so I didn’t take that path.)

Yesterday, the wind blew just right and I thought: hmmmm, I can feel my back in such a different way these days. I wonder what it’d be like to try …

I kicked up, and suddenly … Wow. I’m looking at the ground. I am standing on my hands. My body is in a relatively straight line, i.e. I can press length through my lower back (the yin to engage-your-core’s yang). I can think. I can breathe.

It seemed like eternity. It was probably 15 seconds.

I came down.

I sent that text.

And here we are. Thanks for reading.

If this resonated with you and you’d care to share, I’d love to hear from you.

Thanks, love, LB

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