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5 Lessons I've Learned From Being Upside-Down

Updated: May 21, 2020

When quarantine first began, I was feeling unmotivated to workout. I had an exercise plan that I was enjoying; with the disruptions and displacement, I didn’t have the energy to create a new plan that would mimic the old. Instead, I decided to practice yoga a few times per week.

After one of these practices with the usual warriors and chaturanga pushups, I wanted to play around with some new poses. I searched for some fun poses to try and came across Sirsasana: the headstand.

I had attempted to learn how to do a headstand in high school. The only thing I remember is that I didn’t quite have the upper body strength for it then. However, that was years ago and I’ve only gotten stronger since then, so I thought, why not give it a shot? I was pleasantly surprised to find that, that this time around, I could support myself. Upon this discovery, I decided that I would make one of my goals during quarantine to perfect the headstand. Since then, I have done a headstand most days of the week, practicing for at least 10 minutes at a time. I found time to work on my inversion after a workout or during a study break.

I made steady progress, first inching off the wall then daring to go fully unsupported. In a month, my skills increased exponentially. I practiced lifting from the ground rather than kicking into it, holding a front tuck, and leaving the fully supported headstand for a tripod. With my headstand practice, I felt accomplished; I could see the impact of a few minutes of dedication every day. Along the way, I learned a few things that I hope you can take away too:

1. A little bit of practice goes a long way.

Let’s do the math. If I did 5 headstands a week for 10 minutes at a time for one month, that’s about 200 minutes, or a little over 3 hours spent upside-down. I did also spend some time doing supplemental exercises to gain upper body strength and core stability, but overall, 3 hours isn’t very long. If you have 3 hours to spare bingeing Netflix, you can probably also find the time to work on a new skill for a little bit every day.

2. Having a goal can help create structure.

I quickly found that I looked forward to headstand practice. During the time that we were all shifting to working from home and virtual classes, my routine completely fell apart. Making time to practice and to do so with a clear intention to work toward helped me find peace for one portion of my day.

3. Just because it isn’t what you usually do, doesn’t mean it isn’t good for you.

My workout routine pre-quarantine was mostly lifting with one day for yoga. I’m eagerly awaiting (as I’m sure most of us are) for the day that we can go back to the gym. Meanwhile, I think it’s important that we remind ourselves that any form of physical activity is still good for you. I’m using this time to work on other areas of fitness besides just strength. Yoga has helped me increase my flexibility and balance.

4. You won't know what you can or can't do until you try it.

Oftentimes, the only thing stopping us from doing something is the lack of self-efficacy. You might not be able to do whatever skill you choose to work on at the first attempt, but you'll likely be able to learn quickly the more you practice it. Before you say "I can't", just give it a shot; you have nothing to lose!

5. Working on a skill can teach you grit.

After a month of inversions, I find that I’m not making progress as quickly as I was in the beginning. It takes more deliberate effort to see smaller improvements. I’m working on sticking out the practice, being patient, and fine-tuning my skills. There’s always room to grow!

The final skill you decide to learn doesn’t matter so much as the lessons you learn along the way. Physical or not, setting a goal during this time can help us foster our passions and enjoyably pass time. What skill are you working on during quarantine?

-Nikki Vivekanandan

A second-year undergraduate student at The George Washington University studying nutrition science, Nikki is passionate about diversity and inclusion in the fitness industry. Her favorite forms of exercise include lifting, yoga, and walking her cat. She also runs a wellness blog:

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