Chapter 24 | Headstands, Giggles and Perseverance

suzanne doing a headstand
suzanne celebrating a headstand

A lifetime practice, for the rest of my life…

This is not a sentence I use to procrastinate or to postpone; ‘tomorrow I will, or I will start next week’. In fact I use that sentence in the ‘here and now’.

When I, for example, enter a practice like a mobility and strength class, yoga or hip-hop, whatever it is it doesn’t matter, I say this to myself:  What does it do?  It immediately calms me down because it means I do not have to get it right, straight away. It means that there is no urgency or any rush to get ‘it right’, ‘right now’… It means that I will apply myself on a continuous basis, always trying my best in any given moment in time. It helps me to be present in my learning, The fun is lying in ‘baking the cake’ much more than actually ‘having the cake’ – for me that is anyway… If I did not enjoy ‘baking’ the cake I wouldn’t bother, worst case I will buy the cake (however for you die-hards, the real bakers, a bought cake is just not the same, is it!).

The first time I tried to do a handstand was with my friend Kabous, let me tell you, Kabous and I did a lot of things together, like smoking, drinking copious amount of red wine and whisky, staying up all night in her room, walls the blue colour of Matisse, philosophising about life, listening to music and even trying our hands at drumming. I can with all honesty say, I was horrible, just the worst. However I had long blond hair, bell bottoms, Dr Martins (coolest colour you could get) and a cross around my neck (I had zillions, I collected them) and I could dance for 10 and head-bang for 20. Kabous was less agile, shall we say. She had and still has the most beautiful husky voice, she reminds me of Nina Simone. So all in all, we had it covered.

One night, we decided that we were going to start yoga. We bought a book and true to her word, she turned up at my house as promised, dressed in a tracksuit and a T-shirt, book in hand and a giggle that I would never forget to this day and she said ‘fokkit Suzi, fokkit’… (sorry for the French-Afrikaans). I was oozing with excitement and fear, which of course I didn’t show.

So we walked up to my dad’s music room and we began… I will save you the rest of the 45 minutes, I am just thanking the pope that we both still have necks to tell the story. I remember facing defeat when I tried my hardest and best to keep Kabous propped up, being twice the size of me something had to crash, it was either Kabous, or me, or both, and true to my best friend, we both crashed.

some of suzanne's old photos
some of suzanne's old photos 2

Well, I am still practising my headstand 25 years later; various attempts, various approaches and it literally took me till last year when one teacher was actually able to explain to me the placement of your head and the various layers of building your neck strength that I actually got it.

What was in that magic potion? Timing. An insight (understanding) which meant that ‘I got it’ was that I could sense for the first time how to do it… which meant that I could actually enter the pose with confidence and not guts and or bravery.

I also realised just how scared I was to stand on my head. Hearing the voices from adults ‘you will break your neck’ over and over and over again. Break your neck spells ‘death’ or ‘paralysis’… I don’t exactly see that as a safe building block or a confidence booster!!! Also, I didn’t realise how much trauma I still carried from a pole injury on my head when I was 11 – I was on my head one day with my teacher and I went into a complete panic, he was bewildered because neither he nor I have ever seen that side of me. I came out of the posture and I actually started to feel very vulnerable. He gave me time and I was able to articulate that I had a very bad head injury as a child and the pressure on my head made me ‘freak out’. It was unbelievable, I did not know that I had any residue left of that injury.

After 25 years, I can honestly say. I have now restarted my headstand practise.  Spring 2020.  I am pretty certain that I will still be practising my headstand in the next 25 years, if I have any say. And, I will never ever stop practising because I will never lose hope of being able to achieve it, and the enjoyment and discipline that it takes in practising is what makes Suz, Suz.

Bloody hell Kabous, I would pay and give a lot to be in your old brown, ugly car, tunes playing from a radio, because the radio in the car didn’t work and windows down, because the car did not have aircon on. Finding that hotel in the godforsaken place on a Sunday afternoon, with the owner selling us two bottles of wine, because all the shops on a Sunday were closed. To park next to the road, practising our latest dance groove while driving to Hermanus. The only thing I would change; I would pay more for the bottle of wine, I think we are better than plonk….. I love you and I miss you my bud.

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