Inversions. Depending on who you are, this group of poses can leave you feeling anything from excitement to anxiety. And why is that? Inversions – handstands, headstands, forearm stands, etc. – challenge you to view life from a different perspective. They quite literally turn your world upside down. So why should we practice them?
Inversions have many benefits. They improve circulation of oxygen-rich blood to the brain, and help your lymphatic system flush potentially harmful substances from your upper body more easily, which boosts your immune system. Practicing inversions can give your confidence a boost. And depending on which inversions you practice, you will either find yourself more energized or more relaxed. Traditional yogic texts even went so far as to name headstand (sirsasana) and shoulderstand (sarvangasana) the king and queen of asanas because of their many benefits!
So, the real question is, why would we NOT practice them? Like I said before, people tend to have very strong opinions about inversions. There are several potential roadblocks you can encounter in your journey to getting upside down, and your attitude towards inversions helps identify which roadblocks you are most likely to face. Let’s take a look at 3 common problems encountered in inversion work, the types of people that tend to experience those problems, and how to move past them.
The “I’ll throw myself into any upside-down posture before I even learn how” Group
You’re a go-getter! You most likely enjoy taking risks and probably consider things that most people find scary, fun.Skydiving, free climbing, white water rafting… these kinds of things excite you.You’re a leader in your friends group, and always have tons of ideas to contribute when making plans.People tend to listen when you speak, because you have strong opinions and convictions.Confidence is rarely an issue for you because you know who you are and what you believe.Handstands and inversions don’t scare you off at all.In fact, you welcome the challenge.
There are two problems you are likely to face in inversion work.The first is jumping in before you are ready.If your muscles are not properly warmed up, or if you force your way into an inversion before you have the underlying muscle strength and understanding of anatomy, you are much more likely to seriously injure yourself.The second problem is using too much power and taking your posture so far that you lose control and fall.Again, this can lead to injury, unless you’re prepared with ways to fall or to transition into another pose safely.
The best advice for this first group is to SLOW DOWN.Take an extra breath before hurling yourself into inversions to make sure you’re moving safely.Make sure you learn to fall.Focus on slowing down your movements, looking for steadiness through your transitions as opposed to solely relying on explosive power.Notice when and how you breathe as you enter and exit the postures.And learn to appreciate the unique benefits of each pose, rather than viewing them as simply a challenge to overcome and move past.
The “I’m afraid to fall so I can’t get all the way upside down” Group
You’re the cautious type.Probably a bit shy, you like to take less risks and prioritize safety.You’re the peacemaker in your group, the designated driver at parties, and the one people know will be there when they need a shoulder to cry on.Compassion and sympathy for others comes naturally for you, and you’re happiest when everyone else is happy as well.You’re also the most likely to be an empath.Inversions make you nervous because you want to make sure you’re safe in order to ensure the longevity of your practice.
When it comes to inversions, you are your own worst enemy.Fear can keep you from harnessing your full power, which means you might only use half your strength, which will cause you to think you’re not strong enough, which can lead to even more fear.And when you surprise yourself by fully inverting, you generally cannot stay upside down because you freak out and disengage your muscles, which causes you to fall.
My advice to you is to GO FOR IT! Safety is definitely important, but once you have the prerequisite knowledge in place, there is no need to hold yourself back.Yes, you are strong enough (or if you’re not, you can get there!). Visualize yourself fully in the posture. Another thing that may help is to visualize at whatever point you fix your gaze, the face of someone you love, assuring you that you are enough.Focus on your breath, and when you find yourself upside down, make sure to inhale and exhale deeply and fully, which will calm your subconscious nervous system and help maintain muscle engagement.
The “I want to make sure I’m doing it RIGHT” Group
You’re a thinker.You’re most likely extremely organized, and are a great problem solver.You like to analyze and study, collecting as much information as you can.Friends come to you when they need answers, advice, or help in making a decision.People trust that you know what you’re talking about, because you’ve done the research. You take pride in perfection and doing your best. Answers come quickly to you, and you most likely have a very good memory as well.Inversions can simultaneously frustrate and motivate you because see them as a problem to be solved.
While being prepared is important, clinging to all this knowledge can overcomplicate things when you start inverting.If you get too caught up on using every piece of advice from every teacher and doing it all perfectly all at once, you’ll lose your momentum before you even begin.Overthinking can also leave you with a lack of body awareness, which hurts your ability to balance.You may even decide that you need to study more first before attempting inversions with the knowledge you already have, which most likely will only compound the problem.
To this last group I say, TRUST MORE. You’ve done the work.Now let it go.Trust that your body can do what it needs to without you keeping a running checklist.They say balance is in the mind, but that balance won’t help you if you never give your body a chance to use it.You don’t need to remember every piece of advice; most of us pick and choose the few cues our body needs to get ourselves upside down, then slowly work on refining the poses over time.Let go of the need for perfection.There is no such thing as a perfect pose; we can always go deeper or farther.The key is to enjoy the process.
It is interesting to note that these three attitudes towards inverting represent the trinity of the mind-body-spirit. The first group, the confident ones, are in their bodies. They represent strength, and the key to advancing their inversion practice lies in achieving balance in their minds and spirits. The second, safety-conscious group, live in their spirits, the center of emotions. Their practice will be helped most by developing strength in their bodies and minds. The third group, that of the thinkers, reside in their minds. They can make their inversions more fun by finding ways to be more flexible in their spirits and bodies.
No matter which group you are in (or maybe you’re in more than one!), inversions are a great way to strengthen and improve the mind-body-spirit connection. They also help develop strength, flexibility, and balance, 3 key yogic aims. And when the mind, body, and spirit are strong, flexible, and balanced, that is where we find grounded peace and connection. Plus, inversions are so much fun! So what are you waiting for? Let’s get upside down!