Giving up ground

I can't do a headstand. Or a handstand, for that matter, but let's take one thing at a time.

I can't do a headstand and it's giving me a headache.

My life is so exciting, obviously, that this is a big deal.

After yoga class two weeks ago, my teacher said, "I really want you to try to start coming to the Level 2 class. I want you to keep pushing yourself."

Shoot, I thought. No more slacking off in the all-levels community class at Ashland Yoga Center. She sees right through me with her yogi vision.

So a few days later I went to the advanced class. Everything was good. OK, everything was good except the put-your-leg-behind-your-head pose, but come on — that's not realistic. Everything was pretty good until we came to the headstands.

I can't do a headstand.

I'm not that strong. But most of all, I'm sort of scared of going upside-down. Shoulder-stands, which I can do no problem, somehow don't seem like you're inverting, because your head stays on the mat.

My yoga teacher is constantly extolling the virtues of inversions. They keep you young, they balance your hormones, they energize you. You will never be a true yogi without being able to do a headstand. OK, I exaggerated on that last part. But can you see how unnerving all of this is?

I guess I'm a little afraid of being ungrounded. All right, a lot afraid.

But maybe, in losing a little ground, you become more appreciative of it. Maybe regularly turning upside-down in a yoga pose can give you a new perspective on the rest of your life.

Most of the yogis I know are extremely eco-conscious. They're vegetarians, they're minimalists and they're peaceful.

Of course, yoga isn't for everyone. But I think learning to invert your mind, and your thinking, can be helpful in any situation. It doesn't have to mean literally turning upside down in a headstand. It can mean choosing to see something from another side — even if you don't agree with the perspective — just to see how it looks from over there.

Because being stubborn oftentimes leaves you stuck. I have a lot of firsthand experience with this, as my friends will tell you.

But I'm learning from them.

That's one thing I like about Ashland. People here don't seem to be afraid to go against the grain. They like questioning what's accepted by most of the culture.

Even though most people own cell phones in Ashland, some of them are questioning whether the radiation cell phones emit could be harmful. Even though most people drive cars, some are thinking about how they can become car-free. Even though most people shop at grocery stores, some are thinking about how to grow their own food.

You don't have to be a yogi to learn to value the earth we live on. But I think it does help to decide to give up a little ground sometimes, in order to better appreciate the bit supporting you. In letting go, we sometimes realize we don't need so much after all.

And if it's hard for you, know that you're not alone. The next time I went to the advanced yoga class, several folks from the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, aka the gods of Ashland, also attended. And — get this — the gods were having trouble with the headstands.

I guess all of us are mortal. Except maybe my yoga teacher, who truly deserves enlightened status.

This is what she says at the end of every class: "May this practice benefit not only you, but all who come into contact with you."

And all that you come into contact with, including the earth.

Contact reporter Hannah Guzik at 541-482-3456 ext. 226 or For past columns see

Share This Story