A beautiful scorpion pose by Lisa Picard

Inversions can be a scary thing to any new yogi. Terrifying, in fact. I can’t begin to tell you how many times I’ve fallen during handstands, which only makes them scarier! But I don’t believe inversions have to be scary. I believe we can overcome the fear, and begin to conquer inversions with grace.

The fear of inversions is rooted in a couple things:

Fear of getting hurt

The fear of getting hurt is prevalent in all areas of our lives. We don’t stand up for ourselves out of the fear that we could push away the person we are confronting, thus hurting ourselves. We don’t let people get too close as a way to protect ourselves from getting hurt. And we don’t let people see our humanity – our vulnerability – out of the fear of getting hurt. We don’t let people see our real selves.

When it comes to yoga, the fear of getting hurt is just as common. We don’t want to pull a muscle, so we don’t go as deep into a pose as we could. We don’t want to fall and break our nose, so we don’t do inversions.

As silly as this sounds, hurting my nose is honestly one of my biggest fears of inversions. When I was a kid I was hit in the face with a basketball. The intense and sudden pain I felt was incredible. Since then I have had a fear of doing things that hurt my nose. It sounds really silly as I write it down, but it’s perfectly natural. It is a perfectly natural, human reaction, to be afraid of getting hurt – whether physically or emotionally.

There are some people who don’t have this fear, but let’s face it; being a daredevil isn’t something most of us are comfortable with.

Fear of Failure

Fear of failure is another emotion we tend to let run our lives. We don’t apply for the job because we don’t think we’re going to get it. We don’t try crow because we’re afraid we can’t do it.

But there really is a first time for everything, and I’m willing to bet you didn’t master every single thing you tried the first time you tried it. You failed a couple times. You made mistakes. You messed up. But you pushed on. You kept trying, and you did succeed. You learned 10,000 ways not to make a lightbulb.

Inversions are no different. The first few times you try, you might fail. There’s no denying this fact, but just like everything else you have ever learned, the more you try, the better you will do. Stick to it, and you will succeed.

I believe the fear of embarrassment is also a factor, but the fear of embarrassment is a side effect of failure. If you succeed, you won’t be embarrassed. You’ll be jazzed, and excited, and you might even want to show off. While fear of embarrassment is something we have to contend with, it is not separate from fear of failure.

If you try to invert, and it doesn’t work out, you have far less to be embarrassed about than those who are living in fear and allowing that fear keep them from trying in the first place.

Getting Started with Inversions

Now that we have established why we are afraid of inversions, it’s time to conquer them. Here are some tips:

  • Practice against a wall. Clear a space with nothing dangerous for you to fall on. Make sure you have at least 6 feet on either side of you (and behind you) just in case things go a little haywire.
  • Get a spotter. Weight lifters have spotters, and there’s no reason why you can’t have one when you’re doing inversions. Your spotter can help catch you if you’re starting to fall, and lower you gently to the ground. Your spotter can also hold your legs up, or help you keep your balance, which will take away some of the fear.
  • Talk kindly. If you’re telling yourself you can’t do it, you won’t do it. Pump yourself up, and talk to yourself kindly and with compassion just as you would talk to a friend. We tend to talk to ourselves with an attitude and a tone that we wouldn’t dream of using with anybody else. Give yourself encouragement and be kind to yourself. Don’t talk yourself out of inverting just because it might be uncomfortable.
  • Start small. If inversions are really scary, start small and work your way up. Start with drop backs into wheel against the wall. As you drop back, use your hands on the wall to walk yourself down into wheel. It’s the same inversion sensation, but you won’t be completely balanced by your hands at any one point. You can also put a bolster or pillow under where your head will be just in case you fall.

Inversion Videos

What fears are holding you back? How do you intend to conquer them in 2015? Let me know in the comments.

Photo © Lisa Picard