As beings who walk with their heads stacked over their feet, it's no surprise that going upside down in your yoga class scares the om out of you. Fear of falling, neck or other pains, and the sheer oddness of seeing the world from a whole new perspective can make inversions lowest on your list of faves. If you get upset whenever your teacher suggests headstands, forearm stands, or handstands, here are some tips to help you start loving these beneficial inversions.
When you first learned to walk, you practiced leaning on objects and walking along furniture to build your leg strength before you were able to walk upright on your own. The same needs to happen if you want to hold yourself in an upside-down position. Since our upper bodies aren't used to supporting the weight of our lower bodies, it's important to strengthen your core, upper back, shoulders, arms, and even the muscles in your hands and wrists to feel strong and stable enough to take a stab at a headstand or handstand. Target these muscles on your mat by doing these upper-body toning yoga poses, like Sage and Crow, and using these arm-strengthening tips during your next class.
Move Your Mat
It's perfectly commendable to tackle inversions in front of a wall and/or with a spotter, so don't be bashful about pulling your mat up to a wall or asking your instructor for a hand. This will relieve your anxiety about falling, which is often a huge obstacle that prevents people from trying inversions in the first place. Once you have some experience with safely holding yourself upside down without falling, you'll have the confidence to try it out on your own.
Keep on reading for more tips on conquering inversions.
Aside from the wall, the other props in the room can also help you with inversions. Straps placed securely around your upper arms can prevent your elbows from sliding apart in forearm stands. If you suffer from neck pain, placing stacks of blocks under your shoulders to do headstands offers relief. If your wrists hurt while practicing handstands, holding a block under each palm can take pressure off your wrists. Props are also great for trying out more advanced inversions. Here's a video of how to use a yoga ball to do Forearm Stand Scorpion.
There's no need to fling yourself up into a full handstand right off the bat. It's best to begin with prep poses that allow you to have the most control over your movements. With either headstand, forearm stand, or handstand, get your upper body and torso into the correct position, then lift one leg into the air. Keep that leg lifted and take tiny hops with the foot that's on the floor. As you're ready, take bigger hops, working on holding your legs in a split position. This variation with your legs is one of the easiest to balance since the momentum of lifting both feet up at once is sure to topple you over. It also allows you to gracefully and safely "fall" out of the pose. Practice this split-leg technique until you're stable enough to slowly scissor your legs together.
How do you feel about inversions?