I did a handstand in yoga class for the first time last night, and it was an exercise in faith.

Now, as an absolute beginner to handstand, I of course was not doing this unassisted. I had one person holding my hips, and another one supporting one leg as I kicked up. To my surprise, getting into handstand was not difficult at all. It was maintaining the handstand that was tough. Once I was upside down, handstand became not just a physical challenge, but a mental challenge as well.

So much about yoga for me is learning how to breathe through what my teacher has been calling “therapeutic irritation”. That deep stretch, that muscle shaking, that almost-but-not-quite-painful sensation that advances your asana practice. Learning to breathe in those moments translates into learning to breathe in a larger sense, learning how to stay calm, focused and centered when things in life are hard. But even more right now, it’s an act of faith. It’s trusting that my body can do things it’s never done before, that I can challenge myself and meet that challenge without falling apart.

I did almost fall apart doing handstand. I learned two things very quickly, but not quite quickly enough — one, that my body was, in fact, capable of holding a handstand. And two, that I had people supporting me and that I was not going to fall. (Even though once I got into handstand, I didn’t know what to do with my legs and felt pretty certain I was going to keep falling forward and break my neck. Turns out that wasn’t going to happen.) Handstand is scary! And scary things make it easy to want to panic.

How often do I live like I’m going into handstand for the first time? — forgetting to breathe, forgetting how to stay calm, forgetting even that with two people surrounding me, I wasn’t going to fall. And the fact that despite my doubts, my arms can and did support me. It made me think about how I live out my faith.

I can do all things through him who strengthens me.
Philippians 4:13

Why is it so hard to put that into practice? So hard to live that out, and so easy to forget that I’m not doing this alone. I don’t have to worry about falling. I can do all things through him who strengthens me, surrounds me, holds me, bolsters me, challenges, yes — and meets me where I am. I don’t have to panic.

This was my first handstand, but it was definitely not my last. My challenge going forward? Remembering Philippians 4:13 at all times — but especially when I’m upside-down.

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