An inversion in yoga is a pose in which the yogi’s heart is at a higher level than the head. Yoga inversions have the ability to challenge our deepest fears so that we can build resilience either mentally, emotionally or just purely physically. At first, most of us are scared of lifting both legs and balancing on head or hands. Fear of falling and fear of change often stands as the biggest barrier between you and an inversion.
But as you keep trying, as you keep falling and picking yourself up to try again, you overcome your fears and begin to enjoy the process. You become more confident about your ability to move forward and balance, and you also learn to accept your failures and view them as a learning lesson.
As your perspective changes, you start seeing falling (safely) as part of the process and an opportunity to improve and try again. You build trust in your body and at the same time learn to keep your ego in check. You learn to approach your practice with curiosity and humility, look inward and not compare your practice with someone else’s.
It’s important to say that not all inversion poses require that one is completely upside down. There are milder inversions that may be practiced by beginners before trying more advanced poses.
Based on my own practice, here are a few tips I found useful when I started approaching inversions for the first time, in particular to overcome fears in a safe way.
- Always warm-up
I cannot stress this enough. Going into a balancing inversion while your muscles are cold leaves you open to serious injury. It’s always best practice to go through a few rounds of Sun Salutation before trying to go upside down. Not only will it help reduce the risk of injury but you’ll find more comfort in the poses and will most likely be able to hold them longer.
- Start with a wall
If you’re new to inversions the wall has officially become your BFF. It’s your safety blanket and removes the fear that you’ll topple over. It’s the absolute best way to start feeling different poses out, seeing how your body reacts and adjusting yourself to ensure your body is in proper alignment.
- But then move away from it
After you’ve given yourself some time to really become comfortable with inversions against a wall, you need to take that leap of faith and move away from it. The best way to do this is to set up a “crash zone.” Set up some comfy pillows, sofa cushions or blankets around your yoga mat so you have a safe landing zone in case your body decides to go rogue.
- Be kind to your body
If you know me, you also know my mantra – always listen to your body. Every day is different. There are times when we float into headstand with ease and others when our bodies just don’t cooperate, and that’s fine too. Especially if you have a previous injury and/or have any kind of neck or back pain just say no to going upside down until you’ve fully recovered.
- Practice, practice, practice
Nobody masters inversions overnight. At first, you’ll be shaky, you’ll fall, your arms will feel like jelly and you’ll be silently cursing yourself that you just can’t nail it. These real-life moments happen and that’s all part of the journey but you’ll eventually get there. Remember – Be fearless. Be mindful. Be patient. And have fun.