When I was a skinny kid I, like many other youths, used
to love doing cartwheels and handstand all over the house and out in the back
yard. I found doing them gave me a feeling of exhilaration. Fast forward some
40 years and I now weigh in at 97 kilograms. I gave up smoking seven years ago
and took up yoga three years ago under the guidance of Maria Steiner (Prema) at
Hatha Yoga Ipswich.
One of the first things Maria told me was not to compare
myself to others as I struggled to do the Asanas and found meditation difficult
to say the least. Maria delights in helping people achieve their goals and is
hearty in her approbation. She was excited when I managed to do the full wheel
pose, which I hadn’t done since attending the Y.M.C.A. where it was called a
bridge. It dawned on me that I could improve with effort and that many new
poses were attainable. I do yoga to help me become physically, emotionally and
I was given positive reinforcement for each new Asana I
did. Maria is always looking to promote students to do their best and take on
new challenges. She uses humour to keep the class cheerful and optimistic
whilst remaining on the task at hand. I am slowly learning to meditate to
create a calm and resilient disposition. I have also found that my blood
pressure, since commencing yoga, has come down from high to high/normal. My
G.P. is impressed.
One day, a few weeks ago, Maria suggested that I try a
handstand against the wall. I think I am too old and too heavy was my response.
Maria advised me that age and weight are simply numbers and that if I had done
a handstand in the past perhaps, like the wheel, I could do it again. So I
tried. I placed my hands about 15 cm from the wall and positioned my feet as if
ready to run. Kick up two three, fall back two three. Kick up two three, fall
back two three. Kick up two three, fall back two three. Fail.
I then turned my back to the wall and slowly inched up
with my feet until my weight was almost fully on my arms and hands. I could
only step half way up the wall. Before I go on, let’s look at the health
benefits of doing a handstand. According to Google; “ As with all inversions, you get a sense of immediate clarity in your
mind when you bring yourself upside down, delivering fresh, oxygenated blood to
the brain and alleviating stress, anxiety and depression.”
These results were definitely worth striving for, especially as I am inclined to anxiety and depression. So I persisted. A week passed and at the next class I tried again, first with my back to the wall and then facing. Kick up two three, fall back two three. Kick up two three, fall back two three. Kick up two three and then, by gosh, my feet found the wall. I pointed my toes and straightened my posture. I was still heavy, but I was upside down and feeling fine. My body had remembered all those handstands of my youth.
I will mention here that it is important to warm up and
stretch before attempting a handstand, especially by doing the dolphin. As with
a headstand one should follow the Asana with child’s pose to avoid dizziness.
Maria said, good work John and my satisfaction was
immense. That is how I got my handstand back. Now I practice the handstand
twice at classes each week and nearly every day at home. It is a joy to be
coordinated, flexible, stable and strong. Now I have a new Asana in my
Our bodies were designed to move and exercise and yes, go
upside down. Good health makes one feel youthful and more able to cope with
stress and various life challenges. Everyone seeks praise and positive
reinforcement. Doing yoga with a competent instructor like Maria is a good way
to inoculate oneself against these stresses and strains.
Our bodies strive to be healthy and yoga, including
meditation is a good way to ward off and avoid toxic, unhealthy habits. With
every handstand I do I feel stronger and more balanced. I have also regained
that feeling of exhilaration I felt as a skinny kid. It is a wonderful way to
be in the moment and focus the mind.
I hope my story inspires you to do something healthy,
that you haven’t done for years. Or even, if you have not already, take up yoga
Namaste. John Carmichael 27/8/2019.
Following are Photos taken in the Yoga Class on Tuesday 27/8/19. John Carmichael in Handstand and Wheel.
Handwritten Testimonial Essay by John Carmichael:
Thank You very much John for your heartfelt feedback, and allowing me to share your story. May it inspire many others on their life- and yoga path. Namaste, Maria Prema .
A dear yoga student of mine and beautifully, gifted, talented Artist Lee FullArton did some local artwork in my honour.
The traffic light control box on Jones Road, Bellbird Park (it’s on the way from Ipswich to Springfield). If you are in the local area go have a look, it’s beautiful and fun. Adding some coulour to the traffic and roads.
I feel humbled and it also makes me feel integrated in the local community. That my yoga classes have such wonderful influence on many people.
Lee’s words: “Dedicated to my beautiful yoga teacher Prema Maria At Jones Rd Bellbird Park.” “My pleasure you inspire and guide the well being of so many people .. a tribute is fitting xx”.