183 Handstands – What Does That Mean?

One of my new year’s resolutions for 2014 is to do at least one handstand per day. Now that we have reached the middle of the year, I have collected 183! Hmmmm… Time to stop and reflect: Half a year of handstands – what does it mean? It means way more than going upside down for 183 days in a row. And to think that 2-3 years ago I was even afraid of the thought of going upside down!

Even though I still need a wall to perform my handstands, so many barriers have already fallen since I started this. I will mention a physical one first. I have been afraid of doing somersaults since I was 6yo. I can’t remember if I got hurt or if someone made big fun of me in school, I just know I disliked it and feared it very much. In my attempts to get away from the wall, one day I was doing tripod pose to work on conquering the balance and control needed to keep the legs up in the air and ended up rolling forward in a somersault. I told a friend right after I rolled, “Apparently, I survived.” It is incredible to realize some of the stories our mind creates and gets us to believe in… We feed those stories and they turn into beliefs, most of the time becoming pretty hard to get rid of. After I rolled, I sat and caught myself surprised and thinking, “I rolled forward, so what?” And so I proceeded with my day. No big deal.

This is how yoga works in my opinion, first you notice nothing happening, maybe a new muscle or two being activated and sore. Then, you notice physical changes, not just in shoulders getting stronger in my case, but the body allowing a somersault to happen, which I thought my body was not capable of to start with. Next, it spills into your life, and you notice changes on the emotional. A few things I believed were true turned out to be just stories in my head, and now I can free myself from them. It is a beautiful unfolding, like the petals of a flower blooming – you can’t force it; it just happens, especially when encouraged by support from within and from outside, too.

One thing I had noticed when practicing handstands in a yoga class was that it always shifted my view about some issue going on in my life. Just like mindfulness (that’s another post I want to write about, as I have been studying it lately), the idea of practicing it pops up in my mind all of a sudden, driven by the knowing that I can change my view on something that is not working or at least feels hard to understand or accept. So, all of a sudden, I pop into a handstand… Even worse, I do it wherever I happen to be at that moment. My kids get embarrassed and walk away, but I don’t mind; the shift inside is way more important. And so I have done handstands at places such as airports, museums, outside of stores, gym rooms, parks and hiking trails.June20

A few weeks ago, my car had a flat tire while I was out of the house at 6AM. Making the story short, by noon it finally got fixed! With all the waiting and this stopping me from doing what I had planned for that day, I felt the frustration coming up, and my body begged for a handstand. I had my younger daughter with me and asked her to take a picture of me in a handstand inside the tire shop. She didn’t want to and stayed outside. I went in anyway and asked a complete stranger, who was in line, to take a picture of me while upside down next to shelves full of tires. In that moment, the frustration started to move out and I could see other things that showed up for me that morning. It is like having eyes at the bottom of a snow globe. If it stays still for a while, the sprinkles will cover the bottom and it is hard to see things clearly. But as you shake the snow globe, the sparkles spread all over and you gain some clarity, being able to see the bigger picture, until the sparkles settle down at the bottom again. This is what handstand does for me; it shifts my perspective and I gain clarity about what’s going on in my life.

Another day that a handstand made a big difference for me was when I got really angry with some situation and I felt the build up like lava inside me. I had to let it out but had no idea how I could make it in a positive way since all I felt was anger filling me up. My body nudged me, I smiled and did a handstand. Somehow I immediately had the idea of scrubbing the bathtubs, which needed cleaning anyway. This way, I channeled all that energy coming up with anger into cleaning. By the end of it, I was singing and admiring how clean the bathtubs looked like with this extra strength I had available that day. Talk about shift, huh?

This was an unexpected perk from doing handstands. Just by having the option of experiencing a shift in my perspective is a relief. It is like having a friend by your side all the time – one who doesn’t judge you or expects anything. It is there when you need it, no matter what. Along with these discoveries, there is way more going on! I thought I would be dealing more with facing fear, but that is another story that is developing along with the other unfolding lessons. Maybe on a future post I will write about it. Meanwhile, I invite you to try something that scares or at least challenges you every day and observe what difference it makes in your daily life.

Posted in Daily Tips | Tagged , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Happiness as Priority

My husband and I are from Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Our first child was born there and lived there until she turned two months old, when we moved abroad. Rio is a popular destination for tourists, who come for many different reasons. But I would say the main reason behind their visit is perceiving happiness, whatever happiness means to them. It could mean taking part in the famous parade (Carnaval), visiting beautiful sandy beaches or enjoying the juicy nightlife.

In fact, I would dare to say happiness is a philosophy of life for cariocas (name given to people born in Rio). No matter what is going on, there is always a reason to celebrate. Even though this is wonderful for people to live well, it also has a disadvantage in terms of the city being taken care of. Since cariocas always seem happy, the government may do things that are not for the city’s best interest but most residents don’t really seem to care or even try to make themselves heard to turn things around. With that, the city suffers a lot, since there is no vision or big goal to make it cleaner, safer, more organized, etc. Cariocas seem to live in the moment, and the city goes along.

What I miss the most about my hometown: My family, my friends, and the beautiful beaches. What I do not miss at all: Violence, traffic jams, lack of love and care for the city from some residents (usually the ones who did not get any education for one reason or another). I would definitely move back if I did not have kids. Maybe living in Rio again in my future, once my kids are off to their own houses.

I recommend you visit Rio at least once. Even though people are very friendly there, it would be best if you knew a resident who would give you some tips on how to be street smart there or to avoid traffic jams. And if I am living there when you go, let me know and I will happily show you around.

Posted in Daily Tips | Tagged , | 9 Comments

Distances Feel Shorter with Technology

Technology has helped my immediate family keep in touch with the others back in Brazil after we moved to the US. Most of our cousins, all parents and my husband’s siblings live in Brazil. I have cousins living in Australia, England, Dubai, South Africa, Singapore and New Zealand. As a child, I remember sending letters to a cousin once in a while in a conversation that would take at least four months to happen. Nowadays, you can instant message someone without the big expenses of a phone call.

Another positive point for my children, besides keeping in touch with their larger family, is that it gets them to practice Portuguese because almost nobody from our family in Brazil speaks English. Using Skype with a camera helps us seem them and allows us them to follow my children’s growth. Sometimes we use the instant messaging feature from Skype and it has my kids typing in Portuguese, which is different than speaking, because spelling words right does not come automatically with learning to speak a language. In the beginning, some of our relatives would be picky fixing my children’s spelling. But after I explained that it would get them avoiding chats with them, they decided to let the conversation roll without fixing their spelling errors, even if their intention with that was to help them learn the Portuguese better.

I am thankful for Skype, which has certainly reduced the distance between us and our family. This past week, I had a lovely experience with my mother and a friend of ours, who is like a godfather to me, since my real one passed away when I was a little kid. When I go to Brazil, the three of us get together in a beach house and we talk for a long time, catching up on our stories after living apart for a long time. At some point, this friend will pick up his guitar and start playing, to which my mom and I accompany him by singing spontaneously. Yesterday, my mom contacted me through Skype, as she usually does every morning, so we can ask each other about any news, especially in health. This time, our common friend was visiting her and she included him in our Skype conversation. I could see both through the camera and they could see me. So we sat and talked, and talked, and laughed, and talked some more. It lasted for 45 minutes! And it really felt like one of those days when we sit at the beach house and chat. It was lovely! I miss them so much, and this chance to talk openly to them helped ease it a bit. Today my mom mentioned to me the two of them were delighted with our long and live conversation, to which I agreed. Now, we want more! And maybe next time he will include his guitar.

Posted in Parenting | Tagged | 2 Comments