This year, 2018, was the year of the handstand, I told myself. I wanted to be able to successfully hang out in a handstand by the end of this year. If you’re not familiar with my mini 30-day challenges, check out my last blog post here. Anyway, let’s start from the beginning and the “a-ha” moment I had after a few months of non-stop yoga. Much like me failing that high note in the song “Take on Me”, I really cracked when it came time to flip to the upside down (I really have an endless supply of 80’s pop culture references, so don’t hold your breath).
Back when I started yoga in December of 2017, I vowed that I would pretzel myself into these artful poses that flooded my Instagram feed #yogaeveryday, am I right? However, when I set out to try a handstand, I failed miserably. I couldn’t even bring my legs off the ground. You’re probably thinking “Of course you’d fail, you’ve never done yoga before”.
Well, you’d be right. I remember thinking about the components required to get my body upside down and stay there. At this point, I didn’t know what the components actually were, so I started learning about yoga and the basic foundational poses (my a-ha moment). What this taught me is that handstands actually require a lot of core/abdominal strength versus arm strength, which was counter-intuitive to me at the time. You need to “stack” your body and that requires a tremendous amount of strength emanating from the core muscles to 1) balance you, and 2) keep your shoulders stacked over your wrists and your hips stacked over your shoulders. I also learned that you should probably start with simpler inverted poses like a shoulder stand or a headstand. “A headstand? No. Nope. I’ll break my neck!” That is what I always envisioned when I heard the term “headstand”. After thinking about all the different ways I’d probably break my neck, I came up with a genius plan to scour YouTube and videos of “falling safely out of headstand”. I was bound to fall out of the pose at some point so I probably should learn how to do it safely. For some odd reason, I’ve always felt that headstands were “less safe” than handstands, I digress.
Unbeknownst to me, at the time, I was engaging in a behavior called risk mitigation. Risk mitigation is a strategy that identifies potential risks, their likelihood of occurrence (low à high), the impact of the risk (minor à catastrophic), and a way to minimize either the occurrence or impact of said risk, should it occur.
This is a common strategy in project management for basically anything that involves risk (which is almost everything). Risks can be related to the financial aspects of a project, the scope of tasks, time constraints, or even the adoption of a product by end users. In extreme environments (i.e., space, mountain cliffs, etc.) risk mitigation is highly imperative because risk potentials include life threatening events.
This is an example of a risk mitigation matrix. Listing out the risks of the associated behavior will help you in identifying mitigation strategies to either reduce the likelihood of occurrence or reduce the impact of the risk to a more favorable or tolerable outcome, should it occur.
“How did any of this help your handstand?”, you ask. Well, it didn’t. Risk mitigation strategies helped me develop a plan to eventually do a successful handstand, but I’m not quite there yet. I’ve assessed that my improper form in handstand will likely result in something terrible happening to my neck so I’ve opted for a lower risk, more easily obtainable pose à headstand (which is risk mitigation strategy Number 1). Even when attempting a headstand, I had to develop another set of risk mitigation strategies, most notable is the fail successfully tactic. Failing successfully is basically me falling into a support wall behind me. I know that if I have that wall there, I won’t topple over and injure myself. Knowing how to fail successfully has been the biggest mental hurdle I’ve had to overcome in this entire process. It’s given me the confidence to attempt something that has scared me since starting yoga. Along my journey to handstand, and through the help of risk mitigation strategies, I’ve used a support wall in headstand pose to allow me to teeter with the upside down. As I get better at inversion poses, the likelihood of me spastically flailing out of one decreases. This process will force me to constantly reevaluate my risk mitigation strategies as my risks change and shift. I’ve also learned that practice doesn’t make perfect, it makes you better at failing successfully (and I mean that in the most endearing way possible). Shifting my view on what “success” is, I’ve actually accomplished many mini-milestones on my way to The Handstand.
Tell us, have had to shift your view on how to successfully complete a task? Do you perform handstands on mountain cliffs? If so, tell us about your experience in the comments below! We’d love to hear about it!
These posts are written or shared by QIC team members. We find this stuff interesting, exciting, and totally awesome! We hope you do too!