Inversions have always been a hurdle I needed to overcome not just in my body, but also my mind. Through years of self-exploration, I realized that my fear was rooted in childhood experiences of pain and a lack of confidence. My body reflected the fear and tightness my mind held.
But as I began learning to play with inversions as a way to create laughter, lightness and fun in my yoga practice, that fear began to dissolve. I fell down countless times, laughed at myself and tried again. I started visualizing my body in the pose before I even attempted it. Slowly, I began to notice which parts of my body needed extra strength to help maintain my balance. Aside from strength building, the key is allowing yourself to completely surrender, while still remaining grounded in the inversion.
Here are some simple practices to strengthen your mind and body, to help you overcome your fear of inversions.
1. Target your lower core muscles.
Find a smooth surface and a scarf or thin blanket that moves easily across it. Begin by placing the scarf under your feet as you come into a plank position. Keep the hands and fingers spread firmly on the floor as you slowly inhale, using your lower core muscles to drag the scarf all the way toward your hands with straight legs.
On an exhale, slide the scarf backward as you go back into plank position. Build up to 50 reps per day.
2. Build arm strength.
Use a balcony, a high bed, or any immoveable object that is about waist high. You can also use a wall. First, sit facing it stretching your legs out straight until they reach the object. Place a block on either side of your hips to remember the distance between you and the balcony. Next, place your hands, palms face down with wide fingers, shoulder-width apart where the blocks were.
Slowly walk your feet back and put them up on the ledge until your back is straight. Let your head remain neutral as you breathe in a controlled manner. Remain in this position for as long as you feel comfortable and slowly add time as you build strength and confidence. You can also adjust your position depending upon how much strength you have in your arms and shoulders by walking your hands closer or further away from you. Once comfortable in the position, you can alternate raising one leg, and then the other.
3. Work your core and arms together.
Come into Dolphin Pose (Makarasana). Walk your feet 1-2 steps forward until your butt is higher than the rest of your body. On an exhale, slowly lower your body down toward your arms while keeping your abdomen tight. As you inhale, bring your body back into the starting position. Build up to 50 reps per day.
4. Practice in water.
If you're struggling with inversions because you're afraid of falling, or are worried you're not quite strong enough, practice by going upside down in water. Find a swimming pool, ocean, or lake, and go into water that is about waist high. The best inversion practices in water are handstands.
Just remember to exhale fully as you come out of the position to clear the water out of your nose!
Before attempting any asana it is essential you visualize your body in the position. What the mind thinks, the body reflects. If you see yourself falling down you will, and vice versa.
Imagine yourself firmly and comfortably rooted in each inversion, before you try it.
6. Use a wall.
Although these practices build strength and confidence, you will not know how well they work until you actually try the inversion. Begin by using a wall to brace your fall. Focus on slow, controlled movements as you enter and exit an inversion, rather than momentum.
And of course, once you feel strong enough you can try without the wall.
7. Fall into laughter.
The best way to combat the fear of falling is to practice falling. Find a beach or a padded floor to practice on, once you're ready to move away from the wall.
Embrace each fall with laughter and inner strength, knowing you are learning and getting better with each attempt.
Photos courtesy of the author