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Inversion Yoga Poses

8 Top Yoga Teachers Give Their Best Advice for Finding Bravery in Inversions

Do inversions make you anxious—and excited to try them? Work through those nagging fears and you’ll reap all the juicy benefits. Here, 8 top yoga teachers share their best tips for how to find the courage to go upside down, or to try a new inverted pose.

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When you first start taking yoga classes, you’re often a little starstruck by that one person doing a whole bunch of Headstands, Handstands, and Forearm Stands in the middle of the room. “Wow,” you think to yourself, “I wish I could do that.” But you’re scared! We totally get it. That’s why we asked 8 top teachers for their best tips for going upside down (or trying a new inversion). With a little bit of courage and a lot of committed practice, you might be the one in the middle of the room next.

See also Turn Your Practice Upside Down: A Yogi’s Guide to Inversions

8 Top Teachers Give Their Best Advice for Finding Bravery in Inversions

Sara Clark

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Why you might be nervous:

A lot of people believe they aren’t strong enough, or that they weigh too much to balance. All that stuff just isn’t true. With proper alignment and practice, you can do this. 

Sara’s tips:

Create an empowering mantra. Envision that you’re already in the pose, and meditate on how you feel when you’re in the inversion. This will melt fear away. Also, go slowly. Most people think the faster they kick, the quicker they will invert. But that doesn’t honor the laws of physics! When you slow down, you can use proper alignment and feel more in control of your body. It also gives you the chance to fall out safely when needed. 

See also: 4 Steps to Free Yourself From Fear of Inversions

Kathryn Budig

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Why you might be nervous:

For many, there’s a fear of falling or hurting themselves. If we want peel back the layers, it has to do with the fear of the unknown and failure. 

Kathryn’s tips:

Get started in three easy steps: 1. Work with a smart teacher. 2. Always start at the wall and use props. 3. Keep a solid sense of humor, and laugh at yourself when you fall or mess up. Give it a shot because inversions can make you feel playful and free. In the beginning, they empowered me because I never thought my body could do something that wild. Now I use them to give me a surge of energy, or simply when I want a refreshed perspective.

Jason Crandell

None

Why you might be nervous:

It’s totally normal to be afraid of inversions. First, don’t berate yourself, or feel bad about having the fear. You have to accept it and work with it.

Jason’s tips:

Get started by going to the wall (maybe right now!). Do Handstand hops and L-shaped pose. Take your time. Do more repetitions for shorter durations (try 4 or 5 Handstand hops, then Child’s Pose. Stop when you’re tired. Don’t try to balance prematurely.

See also 7 Steps to Defy Gravity and Balance In Handstand

Leah Cullis

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Why you might be nervous:

Inversions require us to take a leap, risk falling, and face our fears. As adults, we generally stick to the things that we are good at and avoid situations where we feel unsteady or uncertain.

Leah’s tips:

If you’re working toward your inversion, consistency is key: repetition and regular practice build energy and create results. Also, pay careful attention to what you are telling yourself—if you believe you’re going to fall, chances are that you will! Get started by using the help of the wall. I built my inversion practice outside of the studio first, and the space next to my desk in my office was my Handstand spot. During conference calls, I would press mute, kick my feet up against the wall, and go upside down. 

Taylor Harkness

None

Why you might be nervous:

Our brains have been wired to recognize our bodies in relation to the ground beneath us and the sky above us. Inversions challenge that, and it takes time to rewire those connections.

Taylor’s tips:

The first tip is to work with a well-trained, trustworthy teacher. Also, the wall is great, but can often be overused. Start by kicking up against the wall and build up to holding an inversion comfortably for 10 breaths. Then, back up a little from the wall, but save enough room for your legs to catch the wall in case you overshoot. Try your slow, controlled kick-ups with as little energy exertion as possible, and try to find the kick-up amount between “that wasn’t enough” and “that was too much!” Don’t let it frustrate you. Keep practicing, and stay playful with it. 

Natasha Rizopoulos

Natasha Rizopoulos

Why you might be nervous:

There is trepidation about relying on one’s upper body strength. Then there is the whole psychological element of actually being upside down and the disorientation that can go with that. 

Natasha’s tips:

Take baby steps to get started, and build your practice slowly. First, spend time and energy in preparatory poses, which will develop the musculoskeletal system, confidence, and clarity about alignment. Commit to a daily Downward-Facing Dog and/or Dolphin practice, both of which will increase shoulder strength and mobility. Second, develop your core strength. Practice poses such as Dolphin Plank Pose and baby Cobra for a minute each every day. Third, refine your Chaturanga. Can you catch yourself with your shoulders elbow height and hold the pose? If not, go back to the above.

Amy Ippoliti

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Why you might be nervous:

Inverting is not a familiar feeling for most humans unless you did gymnastics or acrobatics when you were a kid, back when you were more fearless in general! 

Amy’s tips:

Facing your fear is important, but so is having good technique. Focus on how your body feels, and make sure you’re not distracted. Take deep breaths before you go upside down, and use the mantra, “I’m here!” If you really want to get inside your body, make eye contact with someone who is saying your name.  

Cyndi Lee

None

Why you might be nervous:

From a yogic philosophy point of view, nothing is innately scary or not scary, good or bad, fun or un-fun. It’s all in our mind. And for many of us, anything new and out of our normal box is scary, intimidating, and panic-worthy.

Cyndi’s tips:

1. Let go of your goal. Sometimes students become fixated on getting upside down, which also makes them fixated on their apprehension. Give your mind another direction. For example, going upside down also looks like fun! Even just practicing the steps along the way can be fun. Think of it as dating, instead of thinking of it as a bigger deal like marriage.

2. Take your fear with you. Just like swimming in the ocean, starting a new job, or auditioning for a play, learning to do an upside-down pose can give you a little bit of awakened energy. You can call it fear, but you could also call it clarity and awareness. This is a good quality for going upside down. So include the fear in your experience, but don’t let it eat it your entire emotional bank. Include confidence in what you know you can do, good sense in what is or is not appropriate for you, and the bright edge of a little touch of fear. Also, think about why you really want to try doing inversions. If it just scares you to death, then perhaps this is not for you. Or not for you right now. You might feel different next year.