‘Leela’ means ‘play’ in Sanskrit. I learned this at my yoga home because that’s the name of the style of Hot Yoga which is taught there. ‘Leela’ is something that Stewart Gilchrist also touched on during his workshop with us last month.
At the weekend, we had some spontaneous ‘Leela Time’ when one of my fave teachers, Allie led us through some yoga-freestyling in the park.
It was so great to have a play at mixing in some moves we don’t usually do in class with the added bonus of being outside on a sunny afternoon.
When we moved onto headstand practice I found myself feeling a bit scared without the safety of a wall. But I needn’t have been so worried – Allie guided us through step-by-step.
After having a go with the help of Allie and my partner, I have a few attempts on my own, trying to get to that mid-way point where I can balance with my legs bent. I manage it for a few seconds and then… I fall out, landing on my back and staring up at the sky. And actually, it’s kind of… fun (?!) I then remember being in a Jivamukti class where our teacher, Emma told us that sometimes the most fun bit is falling out. At the time I was seriously doubtful about that, but now I’d done it I ate my words. I couldn’t believe it – all this time I’d been holding on to this fear over what would happen if I fell out of a headstand. It felt like a bit of a breakthrough. I hold my hands up – Emma was right.
In the park there’s a bit of chatter about what we should do next, then I’m not sure who says it but I hear:
“Let’s do handstands!”
I’m fairly quiet most of the time but now I go stone cold silent. I instantly feel tense and I’m thinking, “Handstands?! Now?! I really don’t think I feel ready. I mean a few bunny hops in class is one thing but -“
That thought is broken by Allie telling us that Leon (Handstand Guru) is on his way over give us some coaching.
Pants. We’re really going to do this.
We split into pairs to practice and it’s my turn to have a go.
Leon: “When you kick up, just really go for it!”
Me: “Erm, okay… Are you going to watch?” (TRANSLATION: “I really, really, hope you’re not going to watch.”)
Then as I take a deep breath, it dawns on me that we’re standing in the middle of a bustling park on a Sunday afternoon, so it suddenly feels like a lot more sets of eyes are possibly watching and about to see me land on my head…
Except I didn’t.
It took several attempts, but to my complete shock I got there. Twice! My partner spotting me and supporting my feet meant I didn’t instantly collapse into a heap. For a few moments I saw the world upside down. And I liked it!
This doesn’t mean I am now instantly ‘cured’ of feeling any trepidation the next time I try a headstand or handstand – even though the fear is gradually diminishing I know myself enough to realise it will take a lot more practice to get anywhere near that stage. But there is something quite powerful in knowing that you’ve done something once. It clarifies that it’s not impossible whatever your cynical side might say. When you’ve done something once it means it is possible to do it again. Big thanks to Allie and Leon for their guidance!
Afternoon yoga in the park was so much fun – it made me want to play more. Here’s to more ‘Leela Time’!