One of the most popular questions lately seems to be about how long it takes to master inversions and the answer is always the same: How often are you practicing them and how badly do you want to achieve them? You see, doing a handstand or forearm stand or anything else along those lines requires persistance, practice and patience. Active inversions are phenomenal; Something about them makes you feel like you’re defying gravity and in essence, they connect us to the magic of the present moment. It is virtually impossible to do a handstand while thinking about our worries and our plans. Finding and maintaining the balance in these challenging postures requires our full attention. There’s a lot going on! Try finding strength without creating tension or focusing without holding your breath. Not to mention rooting down while also lifting your weight towards the sky. Hanging out in an invesion requires going to the edge – letting ourselves move into the space right before we fall. This fear, however, is what keeps us too far away from ever reaching the tipping point. No doubt falling is scary but if we don’t know how far we need to go, will we ever get there? or is it just more comfortable to keep our “wall crutch”?
Try the following tips and bee-line it to handstandville in no time at all!
Practice Makes Perfect
Do your goal inversion (or a variation of it) every single day. The great thing about headstands, handstands and forearm stands is that they don’t really need much prep work. You can pop right into them at any time – during your work break, before or after class, while watching tv, etc. All you need is five to eight breaths of practice a day and you’ll notice a huge difference in less than two weeks.
The Breath is Your Fuel
If you’re not breathing, you’re struggling, muscling and creating tension. The breath is the link between the body and the mind so find your breath first before you even attempt your invesions. When you’re breathing deeply and calmly you won’t give into the stress and the fear that the mind creates when you’re doing something foreign and challenging. If you can stay calm you’ll focus, engage and have more control. Breathe, breathe, breathe.
Abs of Steel
No such thing as too much ab work. Practice boat lifts, leg lifts, bicycles, crunches, leg crossovers, and any other creative ways to target all four levels of your abdominal muscles. In yoga, bandhas (energy locks), are what create most of the stability for inversions. It’s simple; If your core is strong and engaged, the pose feels effortless. Focus on the navel lock by drawing your belly into your spine during every inversion attempt and observe how that creates more control over the rest of your body. Bring that awareness of “hugging in” to the inner thighs as well — the more you can keep your energy moving towards the midline the alignment will be optimal for balance.
Root Into the Earth & Reach Towards the Sky
Your fingertips are your roots, your feet touch the sky. The only downward energy is in your hands, everything else is either moving in (towards your center) or up (towards the sky). Gravity is already pulling you down so counteract by moving your weight from the ground upwards and consciously mainting the feeling of lifting in every muscle you can think of – especially the shoulders, belly and feet.
The L is Your Friend
Try your inversions in the “L” position against the wall to strengthen the shoulders. Start by doing a downdog with your feet towards the wall. Step your feet up to the wall no higher than your hips so that your legs and torso make a 90 degree angle. Keep pressing the floor away with your shoulders while gliding the scapulas away from each other. This can also be done for forearm stand and headstand prep. Once you get comfortable holding the L, lift one leg straight up and then maybe the other for the full inversion.
Kick Fear in the Buddhi
Let yourself fall once or twice so you know where too far is. Falling not only teaches us that losing our balance and giving into gravity isn’t all that bad, but it also defines our tipping point. That sweet spot where we hoover and become one with gravity is half an inch away from going all the way over. Fear is a crutch that keeps us away from realizing our full potential and no matter how many times you fail, try again.
There is No Finish Line
Remember that putting all of your happiness on achieving a single posture is a neverending and exhausting chase. If you’re one of those people who says, “I’ll be happy when I can finally do a handstand in the middle of the room,” I’m here to tell you that you’re wrong. Once you get your handstand down there will be other things you still can’t do and suddenly you’ll find that you’re still not happy. If you’re competitve and goal oriented, there will be something else to obsess over and you’ll notice that you’re in a constant state of chasing instead of resting in the contentment of the present moment. That’s not to say that being persistent and setting goals is not good — it is! Just detach from the fruits of your labor and have fun with it instead.