My journey with inversions began almost 5 years ago. I had been practicing Vinyasa and Hatha yoga off and on for a little over 3 years at that point, but hadn't really inverted my body much. I do remember in my first yoga class though, Bakasana (crow pose) being introduced, and thinking the teacher was showing us some pretty advanced ninja stuff and writing myself off as not strong enough. Also, moving my knees up into my triceps like she did seemed impossible to my tight hips. I got my knees to my elbows, tried to rock forward to lift my feet up and my core strength was not there to support me. I bruised my triceps, my wrists hurt and I felt kind of defeated... but I wanted to try again.
I got the pose to work for me a few classes later. I reached out to the teacher to break it down for me and learned about muscle engagement and drishti (steady gaze) for the first time. I practiced it a lot, fell on my face, and then one day boom! My feet were off the ground, hugged in to my body, and I was flying! I even managed to remember to take a deep breath or two before returning to the ground. It was exhilarating and awesome, but I only practiced it every now and then throughout college the next couple years and didn't try any other inversions, probably because they weren't really presented much in the classes I was going to at my college rec center.
Fast forward to January of 2013 when a series of events unfolded in my life leaving me lost, anxious, bitter and with little concept of self acceptance and self love. I really committed to practicing yoga and learning more about what it offers as a lifestyle. I also began practicing inversions! Mainly against a wall in my first solo apartment in Kansas City with my best friend Kaitee. I couldn't afford living room furniture for another few weeks, so my apartment was our yoga studio. The good old days!! We flung ourselves up into scary versions of forearm stand and handstand, and started practicing a bunch of arm balances too like flying pigeon (Eka Pada Galavasana) and grasshopper (Maksikanagasana).
Looking back on it, we really began to teach ourselves advanced asana by just working at it all the effing time, helping each other by observing and telling each other what we saw that would make the pose work better in each other's body, reading up and watching video tutorials, etc. We committed to it.
I love teaching inversions and arm balances in my classes now because they have taught me so much about myself and the way I want to live and practicing them helped to transform my life at a time when I really needed the change in direction.
Our bodies are our vessels for life here on earth, and what we do with them physically is so tied to the way we live, express, make decisions, and so much more. It was tough to consolidate, but here's
4 Things I've Learned From Practicing Inversions
1. Be willing to be a beginner. This goes for trying anything new really. If we're afraid to try something new because we're not already good at it, we'll just do the same things we've always done our whole lives and that sounds super boring. If you have even the slightest pull toward something, explore it. Just because. You don't have to get great at it, you can have a million little hobby phases. But I guarantee if you keep trying new things, you'll continuously find things that bring you joy and change your life in some way. For most people, inverting the body is a scary idea. We live our entire lives on our feet (or hopefully on your feet instead of your butt), so using our arms or head to balance our weight and stature puts us way out of our comfort zones. But if you're willing to be a beginner, you'll stay more patient with yourself and not accept defeat when something requires multiple attempts.
2. Trust yourself. I think a lot of hesitation in life comes from not trusting our own capabilities or decision making skills. Generally speaking, we give things a lot of thought... so much so that our gut instincts are removed away from situations. When we're present enough to control our bodies upside down, we gain a sort of trust in our ability to decide what's best for ourselves right side up.
3. Anything is possible. All of the barriers are on our own side. Since I've been practicing inversions, my life has consistently been leveling up. I'm in a steady flow of setting out to achieve something, putting my undivided efforts into it and believing wholeheartedly that I am the master of my own universe. It works every time. What we do with our physical bodies relates so much to our outer experience in life so whether it's dedicating yourself to mastering physical strength and balance or starting the business of your dreams from scratch, anything is possible so long as the hard work and trust is there.
4. Flip your perspective. It sounds cliche, but seriously! When we go upside down and get our hips above our hearts and our hearts above our heads, we reverse the flow of our blood and get more blood going to the heart. We quite literally drain our stuck vantage point out of our bodies, and get of our heads and into our hearts. Seeing situations from multiple perspectives can help you to relate better to others, practice more empathy, and be more openminded to ways of thinking other than your own. It could even change the way you see things entirely or help you see things that have been true all along but are only available to you once you're able to see them.
I'd love to hear what you think! What has your inversion practice has taught you? Do you have a fear of getting upside down? Can you relate this fear to anything else in your life, physical or not?