Let's talk about inversions (the upside downy poses in yoga).
You've been there in class when the teacher says; ‘Ok now we’re going to practice inversions’
Do you A: Drop your gaze and try to move towards a dark corner so you can just wait it out, until we get back to flowing sequences?
Or, do you B: Feel pumped, you’re ready to play around with handstands?
The benefits of inversions has begun; We learn a lot about ourselves in these moments… Is there fear, a lack of confidence, an unwillingness to play? Or are you open to new experiences, ready to challenge yourself?
Inversions, when taught well, will leave every yogi with a feeling of accomplishment, whatever your body type or level of experience, there is an inversion for you!
For many years I chose option A and it’s only when I started to trust myself, recognise my strength and be prepared to take a little risk did I become choose option B. I’ve been fortunate to practice with very experienced teachers who helped me to let go of the fear that was holding me back.
You may be familiar with the Indian story of the six blind men touching an elephant, they have limited information and they each create their own version on reality based on what part of the elephant they are in contact with.
If all I see are impressive handstands on social media, then my reality becomes fixed; I believe that is what a handstand always looks like. What's not shown is the hundreds of attempts to get that shot. And wouldn't that be a lovely message to share?
Inversions are a result of patience, determination and commitment. The success of yoga is in the process not the end result.
Poses like handstands and headstands require us to change our perspective, to turn the world on its head! This is what I love about getting upside down, we see things from a different angle. They're often a time when students connect with each other, step off their mats to help each other out. A chance to feel supported and also let someone know you're there for them.
Inversions can teach us to get out of our habits and take a break from the norm. They challenge what we think of as our limits, they can be playful and teach us humility. –Hard to take oneself too seriously when you wobble out of a headstand.
If you’re new to yoga why not take the weight off your feet with legs up the wall pose or shoulder stand?
So yogis, next time the teacher introduces the inversion practice, enjoy the process, don't focus on the destination.
There are so many benefits to inversions, here are just a few:
Improved circulation: Flipping upside down quite literally moves things in a different direction, which helps move blood and lymphatic liquid through the body.
Enjoy a hit of endorphins: When the feet go above the head, the brain releases feel good hormones.
Increased focus; Inversions require all of our concentration. You can only be in the present moment when you’re upside down.
Better balance: Learning to balance when our bodies are flipped around is a challenging task. Having great balance upside down will certainly improve all aspects of balance when right side up!
Remembering to be playful.
Rosie Iles-Jonas teaches public and private yoga classes in Hove and is the yoga teacher for Brighton and Hove Albion FC.