Venetia on how to fall head over heels (pun intended!!) in love with inversions...
During my training I was pretty gung ho when it came to most elements of the course, I knew I had a good residual practise, I’d worked hard beforehand making sure I knew my asanas. I felt prepared. Until, that was, we did an inversions workshop. Week 2, 12 days in, my world was about to be turned upside down and I was not ready. Physically yes, physically I was as ready as I ever would be, but mentally I was cramping up.
Alberto, our eccentric Spanish inversions instructor had no qualms with picking anyone of us in the group and asking us to demo, say, a L handstand, or supported headstand. If we shook our heads, or resisted he just pushed us further, claiming we had the fear, we needed to move past the fear. Admittedly I did find the whole three hours terrifying, as well as exhausting and a bit disheartening. Did I have the fear? I thought through my yoga practise I had build strength and confidence and now I was being told I was afraid. Initially I wanted to tell he was wrong. But actually, even if the language barrier had perhaps made his application of this truth rather coarse, he was right. I was scared, scared of going upside down. How silly. How many cartwheels do we do as kids, how many monkey bars do we hang from, how many somersaults do we take down hills. When did I lose that sense of freedom being upside down gives us.
I can't say I moved past this fear quickly, but after training, during a home practise, with a wall and plenty of time and dare I say it, privacy. I went for it, threw myself up into my first handstand. It’s still very much a work in progress but I’m feeling more and more confident about it every time I practise.
So, how can we prepare ourselves:
Well obviously the hands are taking the brunt of the weight here. Strong flexible wrists are a must for any yoga practise, but plenty of down dogs, wrists rolls and bakasanas will strengthen these. Always remembering to root with the knuckles, pads of the fingers working into the mat making this a safe and strong foundation.
Open those shoulders, they are also doing a lot of work, and if they are tight the body can't stack and then the lower back falls out of line and so on. Garudasana and lots of humble warriors can help ease and open.
Core core core! We should never underestimate how crucial core is in basically everything. Chances are you won't be able to even make the initial jump into your handstand without the cores help, and then it's very much needed to keep you up, balanced and drawing the pelvis over the ribcage. Navasasana, everyone's favourite, is a powerhouse of a posture as are lots of exercises with blocks.
And lastly hips! How many times do I get request for hip openers in class? Hips are a big element as we move into inversions as you need that space in them to start to lift the legs up over head. Arda hanumansana, malasana, figure four, these are all fun hip releases and easy to incorporate into your practise.
I have totally fallen upside down in love with inversions, trust me, after a long day, a bad night's sleep, perhaps just a foggy head, being upside down somehow makes me see the world the right way up.