I have a fear of inversions, but boy do I dream of them. I am guilty of mindlessly scrolling through Instagram admiring but also stewing with a little jealousy over finely executed handstands and graceful scorpion poses. But the truth is – these impressive looking poses scare the shit out of me.
Over the last few weeks of my teacher training, I’ve been breaking down this fear of inversions by looking at the poses that send a chill up my spine. My strategy is to try and really understand what’s going in my mind and body in these poses so I can hopefully find a my own expression of the pose. This is an intelligent practice after all, so thinking is highly encouraged.
Because I am a woman of many fears, including whales, almost all bugs, being alone in the woods at night, and my feet not touching the floor. That last one is important because it sums up my fear of inversions since they require having my feet off the ground and above my head. Horror of horrors!
I used to think that my fear of inversions was because I did not want to see my whole world turned around – which can be very disorienting. But after rebuilding my full wheel practice and spending time in assisted handstands and headstands, I realize my fear has mostly to do with my feet and their lack of contact with the floor. Oh, and I’m also very afraid of falling because I know these almost 30 year old bones ain’t what they used to be.
So here is what I’m doing to practice the sensation of being upside down.
Figure out where the crown of YOUR head is at
So big news – I had no idea where the fuck the crown of my head was located. Luckily enough, we did a little trick in Teacher Training that totally rocked my world. Take your palm and place it at the top of your nose where your brows and bridge connect. Relax your palm against your forehead and your fingers along the top of your skull. Where the tip of your Middle Finger connects with your skull is the crown of your head. Everyone’s body is a little different and I like that this measuring trick is specific to my body and not someone else.
Finding the crown of your head is really important because the geometry of this pose is very important. If you’re too far back on your skull, you could be compressing your spine. If you’re too far forward, I guess you’re in a foreheadstand which isn’t really a thing. So you want to get the measure exactly right before you move on to lift your legs.
Walls are cool but your couch might be better
Since my biggest fear is my feet off the floor, AND falling, AND getting upside down is a huge challenge, using my couch for support in these early stages is really helpful. Without a partner or someone to spot me, I’m nervous about going upside at the wall on my own. I’m also afraid that once my butt hits the wall, I’m still going to tip to the left or the right. By using the couch, I have a safe boundary that allows me to fall. And the more accustomed I am to falling, the more willing I am to try this headstand business in the first place.
Use Props To Get Over Your Fear of Inversions
I used to have an ego about props and now I feel like I can’t practice without at least 4 blocks and 2 blankets. There is no shame in propping yourself up.
For my headstand practice and prep I use two blocks, shaped like a V and wedged under the opening of my couch. The fit is just snug enough so the blocks don’t move around. I then interlace my fingers and tuck them into the V shaped opening of the blocks. The blocks essentially create a boundary for my forearms so they don’t splay too wide. The goal is to keep the forearms shoulder width distance apart, flat on the group, and parallel. This gives your headstand a nice strong base. Also, the goal for headstand is to actually use your arms and shoulders for strength. Hopefully, one day I’ll be able to nod my head to show that I’m barely relying on the top of my skull for any type of support.
Practice hopping, kicking, and lifting your legs
What I love about this supported headstand prep is that you can be a real goofball and try all sorts of things to explore the nature of the pose. Since I’m not ready to move into the balance portion of this pose, I focus on exploring my legs and what they’re doing. Here are a few things I do:
- Practice walking both feet as close to my chest as possible
- Practice stacking my spine. I think about how I roll up slowly to Tadasana, and try to do the same with rolling my hips / pelvis on top of my stacked spine
- Practice lifting left and right feet off the ground, just to play with the balance on both sides of the body
- Practice kicking up and landing as soft as a feather. This forces me to think about my core strength and how I can use it to keep my legs in the air and control them on the way down to the ground. I used to really slam down with each kick and now I’m finding myself floating up and down.
- Practice falling over. Again, if you’re like me and really afraid of falling, then there’s nothing more rewarding the falling with zero repercussions. Each time I fall is a chance for my body to learn something knew and soon, I’ll less and with more body awareness and intelligence. Knowing what your body needs to do in a fall will help avoid injuries as well.
How are you learning headstand? Any tips or tricks that are bringing you closer to the full expressions of the pose?