Turning upside down in the yoga room can be a scary feat for many of us, even frequent flyers.
It is frightening partly because we cannot see what we’re doing, and partly because we are not used to being upside down so we lack confidence in this space. We literally spend the first few years of our lives learning to stay right side up! It’s also a little unnerving because everyone has different advice on the subject - and they all make it look so darn easy, even though we know it is absolutely not, no matter what anyone says.
Once we figure out how to build confidence around the unknown, practicing inversions can be liberating. If you are fearful start by following a few of these guidelines from myself and some of the countless other yogi’s who I asked:
“What makes you feel confident coming into an inversion?”
“A strong grip all the way through to my fingertips. I imagine that instead of being upside down, I am holding the entire Earth in my hands above my head!” -Jeffrey Larocca.
Have you ever felt like your whole world is being flipped around on you? That is exactly what these postures are there to prep you for!
Often going slowly and taking the transition one step at a time is the best way forward in these life challenges. Applying that same philosophy to your yoga postures is key to growing the confidence you want to emulate in your inversion practice, and then back into life’s challenges.
Learn to listen to your intuition while not allowing the fearfulness to prevent you from embracing inversions in your yoga practice. This is about owning responsibility for your body. I like to think of our bodies sending us constant text messages in the form of sensations. When we listen to these messages we intuitively know when to push and when to rest. If you were being held responsible for someone else’s safety you would certainly listen to the messages - have that same compassion for yourself.
“Readiness in the core, and set shoulder blades” - Korie Franciscus
Start with some core work. Get those muscles lit up and engaged. Many, many yogis referred to feeling strong in their shoulders, core and hands before attempting to come up in any inversion, regardless of there being a wall or spotter.
Piggy backing on this, find a way to come up that is not about throwing your legs in the air. Having control of the larger limbs as you come up will feel less frightening because you will be less likely to hurt yourself.
“The wall behind me.” - Megan Fox
Talk to your instructor about private sessions directed towards these shapes so you get some one on one attention. There’s always more than one way to find any shape. Your teacher can help find the best way for you.
Perhaps they will have you using props like straps or blocks. Likely they will have you use a wall until you are comfortable with the upside down sensation and have control over your limbs as you lift up. Then they can spot you so you get comfortable away from the wall.
“Knowing I am not going to hurt anyone around me!” - Lucas Wong
Build self trust. In yoga philosophy (and beyond) having a fear like that of turning upside down, is about distrusting that you can catch yourself. This kind of lack of trust comes from a history of disregard for your own wants or needs.
Spend an entire month holding yourself accountable for little things in life. If you say you are going to eat a healthy meal- eat a healthy meal. If you say you will be somewhere at 6pm, be there at 6pm.
When you start showing up for yourself in this way you begin to trust your own reliability, The knock on effect is that on a deeper level you begin to grow confidence in your abilities. With that confidence it will be easier to witness the world flipping upside down both on, and off, your mat (you may even find that inversions become less important in your yoga practice!).
“Faith, believing I am strong enough.” - Elizabeth Davidman
Keep trying. Remember that even as you fall, even as you slip up, even as it seems like life is taking you backwards- it is all strengthening, it is all building your tool set.
Definitely keep it safe and listen for signals from your body telling you to rest or take a step back, and have faith that when it is time you will come up!
The bottom line is that you can fling yourself into a handstand all day but only when your body is ready for that handstand will you stay up solidly.
So unroll your yoga mat, find a piece of wall space, light up your core, tune in to your bodies text messages and sensations with a brief meditative moment, and prepare to turn your world upside down!