Developing your own practice

My students sometimes ask me why my online handstand course is only available for streaming for twelve months. (online handstand course available here) This is not because I want to restrict access to the program or get people to buy it a second time. This is because on the one hand twelve months are a good time frame to prevent you from procrastinating. Ten year gym contracts calculate on the fact that most people don’t start until nine and a half years have passed. Limiting time means that you will make better use of it. On the other hand there is a more fundamental concept behind this time frame:

I hope that in a year’s time you won’t need this program anymore because you will have moved on to more challenging ways of moving. I hope that your understanding of handbalancing as well as the knowledge of your body will have expanded and you will have developed an appetite for learning other things. I hope that by that time you have built your own practice from the tools I gave you and that you will be off on your own journey to discover and explore your physical homeland.

Let me explain the mindset of learning that theses thoughts are based on: I believe that your competence in making critical choices about the way you want to train grows with every hour of exercise you put in. So do trust that growing knowledge of your body and use it. When you have understood and mastered a skill up to a certain extent you don’t need to go back to square one all the time to remind yourself of the exact wording of every phrase, the exact task, the exact exercise. By the time you are in college you don’t need to keep in touch with the wisdom of your primary school maths books.

Learning by copying someone and by repeating exercises hundreds of times is often the way to acquire a new physical tool. That is a fun and very important process in itself. You can really dive into a new way of moving and trust someone else to guide you through it. This is the stage of learning where you expand your physical horizon, you discover a whole new range of moving and being. You practice being precise, accurate and goal oriented. Every athlete and mover knows times when one is totally obsessed with perfect technique, maximum repetitions and optimum training plans. I believe that this a very important stage but only the first of many steps of physical learning and personal development.

So here you are doing my handstand exercises that are supposed to serve you as a tool while you learn and familiarise your body with new pathways of moving. For a while you follow my patterns and build the awareness as well as the muscular grid to safely execute more and more advanced exercises.

Then comes the point where you are ready to move on.

The next step to master is to take critical choices about how and what you would like to continue practising. This sounds easy but it requires a lot of trust in yourself and also courage and determination. It is in a way a lot harder than just copying something. You need to check in with your goals, assess your needs and abilities and take decisions about what suits you and what does not. You need to be creative and write training plans for yourself. You need to develop a vision about where you want to go next with your training. This is nothing you need to rush towards. To start with you should continue to do all those new exercises until you feel like you really understood what they are about. When you feel like you know them well enough you can take your own decisions about whether to take or leave them.

You will be able to tell that it is time to move on when you notice a growing impatience with what you are doing (not to be confused with the challenge and potential discomfort of learning something new). As time moves on you will find yourself losing interest or find yourself just less intrigued by your teachers training plan. The whole things just gets a bit boring. That is the stage at which you are ready to examine what you have learned, take what has proven useful, make it part of your own practice and then move on. I would be very disappointed if you stayed my student for ever.

Tailoring what you have learned to suit your needs, your life and your goals can be a joyful and empowering process. Once you get used to it you will find that it becomes a habit which leads you onto a path for continuous development. This development is the process of becoming an independent mover and of creating your own practice. Becoming a confident and independent mover (and person) means that you learn to trust that your body “knows”, to trust that it stores and owns the knowledge that you have exposed yourself to. Starting your individual journey of physical learning and development does not mean that you stop to acquire knowledge from others via copy and repetition. It just means that you are aware of your own path and actively work towards crafting your own personal physical journey.

My beginners online course for handbalancing is only a seven week training program and it may take more than that to rock your boat. I hope that in between the lines of my exercises you notice that I would like you to become an independent, reflected and confident mover. I would like you to become a person who knows their body well and has enough confidence to take decisions for themselves. Within everything I teach there is a core principle: Get to know yourself. Know what is good and necessary for you, for your particular body type at this point in your life. Learn how to listen to the repercussions any movement has within your body. Be aware, curious and critical and actively shape your future training.

Now go and forget about all the words you have read and dive into your handstanding body! Enjoy what you have learned, trust what you are building and expect much more to come.

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