Unless you have a history of dance and/or gymnastics, chances are going upside-down evokes anxiety. I get it. I’ve been there. As kids, we challenge our bodies every way we can, but as adults, we stay pretty much upright, thank you very much. Some of us still enjoy a looping roller coaster, but even so, upside-down is in not way a place of peace.
Let’s explore going there. If inversions never becomes peaceful spaces, at least we can approach them with a sense of adventure and fun–but safety as well. Children might be able to fling themselves into inversion exploration, but kids have more forgiving bones and less distance to topple.
In this video, I offer a quick sequence to prepare the mind and body to get into a tripod variation sometimes called the “teddy bear” pose, in which we have our knees resting on our elbows (not the headstand version pictured in the thumbnail–that’s just part of the ending headstand montage; those more comfortable in headstand might be inspired to try them). Physically, we need to prepare the arms and wake up the core, so the flow incorporates uttihita chaturanga dandasana (plank) and makara adho mukha svanasana (dolphin plank). Mentally, we need to get used to having hips above the head, so we have adho mukha svanasana (downward dog), prasarita padottanasana (wide-legged forward bend), and ardha pincha mayurasana (dolphin).
The first mental step, though, is taking stock of what truly makes you nervous about inversions. Most common is probably fear of falling. No shame in that fear; fear of falling is most likely an engrained trait. (From an evolutionary perspective you can see how that fear might help us out as a species.) So, we can address that fear by setting up next to a wall or even in the corner. If you want to give it a go in the middle of the room you can also place a thick blanket just behind your head. What is another fear? Hurting oneself in the pose because of lack of strength or agility. Fair enough. Putting ourselves into unfamiliar poses does run that risk. For our gentle version of the headstand, one danger would be if we tried to look around while there’s pressure on the top of the head. Our necks are built for mobility, not strength, so the neck needs to be held still and straight. (Those with neck/spinal injuries or high blood pressure should probably skip this one altogether.) If the pressure on the top of the head is too intense, put a folded blanket or towel under your head.
If you still have doubts, ask your teacher–that’s what we’re here for. Not only might she have words of encouragement to help build your confidence, she can also guide you through and double-check your alignment.
Wherever you are, remember this is a journey. We don’t need to crest Mt. Everest today or even next week, next year, or ever, for that matter. Maybe you get both feet off the ground, maybe one. Maybe you hang out with both feet on the ground but the hips over the shoulders. If that is where you are, breathe into it, enjoy the experience (or at least observe it with patience and kindness–for the situation, for yourself).