As a child, I was fearless. Growing up in a small town in Sussex, my sisters and I spent our weekends climbing trees, on riverside walks and bike rides. Barely a weekend would go by when we didn’t fall out of said trees, or fall off of said bikes but being forever grazed and bruised seemed like an entirely natural part of growing up. We would cartwheel until we were dizzy, stand on our heads until our faces were red and walk on our hands wherever we could; in fact such was my enthusiasm for being upside down that a school friend and I crashed into each other one lunchtime causing our head teacher to ban cartwheels, much to the dismay and displeasure of my fellow pupils.
And so it was with some surprise that many years later I would find myself so fearful of going upside down in my yoga class. Inversions are yoga poses that position your heart higher than your head – from shoulder stands to dolphin poses to the more advanced headstand and forearm balance. Credited with banishing back pain and improving breathing, such poses are incredibly popular among more experienced yogis but can be somewhat nerve-wracking for those with a less advanced practise.
Thus when I saw a workshop at my local Triyoga in Chelsea on getting over the fear of going upside down, I enrolled immediately. Run by a New York native and former gymnast and dancer who has been practising Yoga for over two decades, the workshop was specifically designed to practise the foundations needed to successfully stand on our heads, shoulders, hands and forearms.
Much of what I struggle with when it comes to inversions is the fear and the unknown of going upside down; I’ve been assisted in both head and handstands previously, and once I’m in the pose (albeit against the wall) I have little problem staying there. So it was both refreshing and reassuring to hear how many others share the same concerns. Throughout the workshop we did a lot of partner work, initially against the wall before moving away from it in order to learn to really engage our core and work on balance and stability.
Alas, I didn’t leave the workshop able to stand on my head, forearms or hands unassisted, but perhaps more importantly, I did learn to conquer my fear of going upside down and that failing and falling is all part of the practise, as long as you always get back on your feet again.