Hitting the Wall

by Blakeney Schick

For years, I have worked on kicking up into handstand at the wall, and for years, the pose has seemed to be just out of reach. Our yoga practice may be one of the only places in our lives where we’re asked not to avoid hitting a wall, but to use it, gather information from it and then take that information into our practice. For me, the challenge came when I was invited to throw myself against a wall over and over again.

On retreat in Vermont in 2010, we tried to get up into handstand in the middle of the room, with 2 people forming a “wall” with their arms for us to kick into. And I got up. I didn’t stay up for long, but there I was, in handstand. Returning to Brooklyn, I was sure that I could kick up into the wall the next time handstand came up in class. No dice. I didn’t understand why. Surely, I told myself, this can’t boil down to a change of zip codes or fresher air. But I told the part of my brain that likes to accomplish things to quiet down and be patient, that my handstand would come in its own time.

Fast-forward through 16 months of pretty unsuccessful kicking at the wall to Guatemala in January. Our studio there had glass walls, so handstand meant 2 other people forming a wall of arms again. From the first day of the retreat, I was getting up into the pose with relative ease. And that was when Stephanie said to me, “I think you have a thing about using the wall.” By that point, this could have been as obvious to me as the fact that I have 2 arms and 2 legs, but it wasn’t. I hadn’t seen the pattern that I had developed when it came to this particular pose, and I hadn’t been thinking about the wall as a prop. As we’re often told at Mala, props, instructions, and variations for poses don’t necessarily work for everyone in the room. I needed to ditch a prop that was not working for me.

There isn’t really a conclusion here because this is a story that hasn’t ended. I still can’t kick up against the wall much of the time. And I can’t tell you why the wall doesn’t work for me. What has shifted is my attitude toward it – I have accepted that my handstand practice at the wall will come on some days and not on others. Maybe one day handstand at the wall will come easily. And maybe it was never meant to be. Whatever happens, the walls of Mala, like the studio and the community they contain, are still teaching me a lot. I use them, gather information from them, and bring that into my practice.

Blakeney Schick is a public radio producer who follows events and elections. She started going to yoga 8 years ago in the hopes that it would help her stand up straighter. It has. But she’s stayed on the mat because yoga’s also made her stronger in every possible way. Blakeney found her way to Mala in late 2007, and finished Mala’s 200-hour teacher training in 2012. She is also a regular contributor to the Mala Yoga blog.

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