I could taste the fear at the back of my throat. But, I knew it was fear. And, I knew it was nothing I needed to fully listen to. I just needed to recognize it was there.
You see, I hadn’t gone upside down in long time. At least, not on my own. As a dancer, doing partner work, I easily could be thrown around in lifts and dips and think nothing about it. There was someone to catch me. It was their job to catch me. But, this. This was different.
It was the first time I was going to attempt a headstand in the middle of the room… in front of people.
You see, I had done it at home without much success. This included a huge flip over my head in which my knee punctured the wall as I crashed to the floor. I wasn’t hurt, just embarrassed. I thought I had it.
Other attempts were okay, but I still hadn’t found my straight line. When viewed from the side the headstand was incomplete, the legs still pitched forward slightly instead of stacked over the hips. The excuses in my head ranged from the fact my legs were too long to that I wasn’t strong in that way yet.
But, here I was, taking a yoga class and everyone was going into headstand like it was no biggie. Only one person pulled their mat to the wall. And, I was tired of being on the wall. I had been on the wall forever.
So, I set myself up for headstand.
I came into a tucked position with my knees pressed into my chest and my feet in the air. All I had to do was press up. As I extended my legs I could feel the bulk of them shake and calibrate where they were in space, trying to give me what I was asking for.
I was in headstand in the middle of the room, but I still wasn’t in that straight line I so wished for. It certainly felt like I was. But, the instructor called over, “Press your feet back, Tori.” So, I moved accordingly.
Huh. I could still hold it without flipping over. “That’s it, now hold it,” the teacher instructed.
Later that day at home, I tried it again.
I set my camera to video to capture it. The first try was good, but my legs still needed to go back more. The second time, though, it all clicked into place.
I found I needed to think more about bringing my hips ‘forward’ to get the legs to go back into position. Then the inversion would stay out of my low spine and prevent this whole ‘banana back” thing that everyone warns you about. And, my core was super engaged to support the posture.
From that day on yoga inversions were an everyday practice. And, they still are a challenge for me. They continue to bring up fear at times. But, on average most people trying to build a forearm stand or handstand will tell you it takes about five or six years to find the postures. It’s a long journey, but one in which you will learn so much about yourself.
Here is why you should begin your yoga inversion journey today:
Yoga Inversions help you build confidence.
Hah! You thought I was going to say strength. That’s truer than true, too. So, no worries there. But, getting upside down, supporting yourself in new ways, seeing your biceps, triceps, deltoids, and pectorals starting to get that sculpted look… believe me confidence. You’re going to have a ton.
That’s right. Yoga inversions help you detoxify the body. Inversions stimulate the lymphatic system. This system is a chain of tissues and organs in the immune system that rid the body of waste and toxins. It's in charge of waste removal, fluid balance, and immune system balance. When you go upside down you are reversing the nature pull of the toxins to the earth. This helps the body drain the lymph from the lower body. Kind of cool, right?
Need a pick-me-up?
Drop the cup of coffee and get upside down instead. Inversion work is super energizing. You are using gravity to supply the brain with fresh blood and oxygen. If you get a fuzzy brain around 3pm… maybe you don’t need anything more than to kick up on the wall and work for float for a few minutes. If anything it will bring that child-like play back to your body and your brain.
Eating humble pie.
So, you’re going to have stories once you begin this journey. Sometimes those stories involve a crash, or that one time you were able to float and now you can’t find it again. The thing about yoga inversions is that they keep you humble… and learning. Two of the best things you can be.
What if you didn’t have to torture yourself with long holds in plank to find your core muscles? Look, there’s nothing wrong if you like planking – I get it. But, I think getting upside down is so much more fun and interesting. You will find core muscles you forgot about through the years. You will introduce yourself to core muscles you never knew existed. And, this helps balance out the deep back bends in your practice. If you are only back bending over and over again… just know you can only do that for so long before your body pitches a fit. Inversions are the answer, as well as, the key and the balance to back bending. Arm balancing helps, too.
So, here you have it. The reasons you need to incorporate yoga inversions into your practice. And, if you’re still thinking these postures are for someone else, or only for people with a dance/gymnast/contortionist background, you’re wrong. They’re for everybody.
Just have patience. Build slowly. And, remember… it’s supposed to be fun. If you fall out, keep it light. Learn to laugh. Shake it off. And, go into it again.
*Want to learn more about yoga inversions, defining your line, and the strength training you should be doing to find your float?
Join me for my live stream April Workshop. You will walk away with a ton of tools to assist you on your inversion journey. And, we always have a ton of fun. Find out more here.
Tori Hicks-Glogowski is an online yoga instructor and yoga business coach and mentor for yoga teachers. She is the author of the book, "Views from the Podium: The Life & Times of a Hot Yogi," and has been writing and sharing her yoga experience for the past seven years. Find out more about Tori now.