Poser, yoga that is.

I'm reading Poser, my life in 28 (or is it 23?) Yoga Poses. I'm typing this from memory and even though I just put the book down, my recollection of the title is fuzzy (a casualty of motherhood or perhaps lack of caffeine). I haven't read a book just for the fun of it since, since... shoot, I don't know.  I read but more along the lines of Starwars Lego instructions for 5-8year olds (which, unlike me, my children can do without reading instructions); a few too many yoga books; or remaining magazine subscriptions: Yoga Journal (4 issues left) and Rolling Stone (a free subscription with purchase of on-line Michael Franti concert tickets. Lucky me, since I'm currently having a love affair with music). 
The author chronicles her attempts at headstands (and 2 dozen other yoga poses) and parallels how she grapples with her beliefs of what parenthood really is compared to what other people feel it should be. I've decided I both simultaneously love and hate this book. I love that the author is funny in a self deprecating kind of way and that I relate to dozens of her antic dots. But, then, I hate that she's funny and that I can relate to her. Why is it that women (read: me) have disdain for other women who are probably just like them? 
Her chapter on Headstands struck a chord. Headstands or Salumba Sirsasana (simple translation: salumba=supported, sirsa=head, asana=pose). Why on earth would anyone want to stand on their heads in the first place? At least that's what I was thinking as I watched my petite Scottish fire-ball of a teacher in a Malaysian Teacher Training stand on her head during every break for what seemed like a long, long time. Lengthy enough for me to get a coffee down the block and when I came back, she's still up-side-down doing variations of the pose: legs in eagle, straddle, splits, twists, and with hands wide to the side of her body, fingertips to the floor.  
I was affraid of headstands. Sure enough, in the first level 2-3 sweaty flow class I attended, the beautiful Chinese teacher with a belly ring and fierce looking tattoo on her neck, asked us to stand... On our heads. In the middle. Of the room. In the middle of the room away from the safety and comfort of the wall? A non-teacher friend (and former gymnast, no less) who was with me popped right up. Voila! I, on the other hand, performed a very good "stare- asana". Eyes wide, watching as she appeared to easily float in and out of the magical pose. From that moment on, I was going to get, not just do but really get, a headstand. As if it was something to capture, then devour. it was my neimeis. 
Months after finally "conquering the pose", I moved on to tripod headstand. (Because, gee, that's what I thought yoga was about. Just like in my daily to do list, poses were to be checked off, one by one until finally, you had a huge bag of tricks or poses to pull out of my already crammed designer yoga bag. My mama always said, all things are possible with time and practice.) This time, a British male instructor in tight yoga pants and a form fitting t-shirt, told us to go into a wide straddle, prasarita podotanasana, then lift our legs to the side and up. Just like that. But, then, instead leaving me helpless and alone in the middle of the room, he grasped my hips and before I realzed it, my legs were over my head. And, then, with his guiding me, my legs came on down, softly. Later, he questioned me, was I a swimmer because my shoulders were so broad and stable. No, I assured him that my shoulders were a result of my new found commitment to a weekly practice of 108 sun salutations. (Awkward pause, as he was completely unimpressed.) I've never been a swimmer, I continued to ramble on to fill the weird silence. In fact, if you know me, you know that I actually don't like to swim. It's wet, gets in my contacts, and then you have to dry off and all that. He just smiled and said, well, then, nice headstand, Melissa. 
me & lisa in headstand for
display purposes only 
I find this memory of him haunting since he was a victim of an accidental death just a few months later while swimming in Bali. He and his friends combined (a very small amount of) alcohol with a game of who could hold their breath underwater the longest. I will never forget him, as the few classes I did take from him pushed me beyond where I was comfortable and into a place where I realized fear was simply me worrying about the result rather than just doing it.  
Like the book, Poser, I could probably weave the tale of my life into a series of yoga poses, too. Yoga uncovers my hidden fears and enables me to move through them, rather than avoid them which seems to me what the author been able to capture well. After all, standing on your head (sirsasana) allows you to see life from a whole new perspective. You simply cannot move your head, You have to see what lies in your view and face it. 


  1. sorry about the teacher who trained you yoga poses. seems he was a great trainer from your writings here. hope we can meet sometime here or in some other social yoga networks as we having the same passion towards yoga..


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