Inverted yoga poses like headstand (sirsasana), handstand, shoulderstand (salamba sarvangasana), forearm stand (pincha mayurasana) and even plow pose (halasana) can be scary, especially if you have never been upside down before.
To get over the fear, work towards these inverted yoga poses gradually.
As an example, to work towards handstand, you could start with downward dog, then do L-shaped handstand against a wall.
And then, with a few more intermediate steps, you could then work towards balancing in handstand.
One of the first things that you can work on prior to doing any inverted yoga pose is shoulder stability.
That can start with working on scapular awareness.
In most inverted yoga poses you are using your shoulders to support the weight of your body, so even before you get upside down, first learn how to stabilize your shoulder blades with respect to your ribcage.
Another alternative for creating arm stability for inverted poses is to work from the ground up. With inversions that can mean activating the fingers to stabilize hand and wrist and also activating the elbows to prevent rotation of the arms.
Once you have learned to stabilize your shoulder blades, first without weight and then with weight, you can then get used to getting upside down gradually by using a wall to support yourself.
The idea at this point isn't to balance, but to get used to being upside down.
And so that you overcome the fear of being upside down, first just practice going up and then down without trying to hold the upside down position.
Simply practicing going up and coming down can help you get over any fear. It also helps you to develop the control necessary to help you stay up in the pose.
Once you are used to being upside down, you can then do the necessary exercises so that you can work towards balancing while upside down.
So why go upside down?
Working towards a yoga inversion like handstand you can start off in downward facing dog.
Once you've gotten used to bearing some of your body weight with your hands and shoulders in downward dog, you can then work towards supporting more of your weight with your arms while doing handstand with your feet on the wall in an L-Shaped handstand.
The beauty of this inverted yoga pose is that the wall can take some of your weight.
Since the serratus anterior are a key stabilizing muscle for the scapula in postures like downward dog, handstand, headstand and forearm stand, you could develop a sequence of postures that start with you getting used to using your serratus first with the arms not supporting weight and then in poses where the arms support more and more weight.
Now while a lot of yoga teachers may suggest getting your torso vertical and over your hands in this position, since in handstand that's what you are also supposed to do, I'd suggest that instead you find a position where it is easy to support your weight.
Once you are comfortable in L-shaped handstand, then you can work on kicking up into handstand and here again you can work towards kicking up into this inverted yoga pose gradually.
You can work at using one leg and then the other and then you can work at using them both together. The nice thing about kicking up is that it makes it relatively easy to get up into this yoga pose. Then you can focus on balancing in handstand.
You then might want to experiment with the double leg jump into handstand.
In this action you kick up while keeping your feet together as opposed to scissoring them. Here again you can work towards getting up gradually, each time adding a little bit more power to your kicks.
You can then work on pulling up or lifting up into handstand from there.
The most important thing is to proceed slowly so that you feel comfortable at each stage of this yoga inversion and so that you can feel your body and control it as necessary at each stage.
Other yoga inversions that you can work towards using a wall include headstand, shoulderstand, and pincha mayurasana or forearm stand.
Shoulder Stand could be considered one of the easier inverted yoga poses because your base is so big. However it can be difficult to get into especially if neck flexibility is limited and or you have weak abdominals. And so using a wall to get into shoulder stand is a good way to get started.
To use a wall when doing shoulder stand, start with your legs up the wall and scootch close so that your but is also against the wall.
Then bend your knees and use your feet against the wall to lift your pelvis off of the floor.
As you get your pelvis higher you can then work at getting your shoulder blades closer together to help lift the base of the back of your neck off of the floor.
As with all other inverted yoga poses, work slowly and gradually, proceed step by step and learn to feel your body and control it every step of the way.
Once you are used to getting up and down using a wall you can try rolling into shoulder stand or salamba sarvangasana as it is also known.
A pose that is often used before or after shoulder stand is plough pose (or halasana) since it uses a similiar foundation.
Generally it is used before shoulderstand to help set up the shoulders (clasping the hands to wiggle the shoulder blades together.) However if you have good shoulder mobility you can wiggle your shoulder blades closer while you legs are up in the air in shoulderstand. Then you can move into plough pose afterwards
For headstand one of the first considerations since your neck could be under a lot of pressure is learning to use your shoulders to help create a solid base.
In addition, while in this inverted yoga pose you can use your shoulders to help you balance. How? By consciously using them to vary the pressure of your elbows on the floor.
Forearm stand (pincha mayurasana) could be used as a substitute for headstand is forearm stand.
The poses are similiar in that the forearms are on the floor, however in pincha-mayurasana the hands are separated and the head is off the floor.
This inverted yoga pose may require a bit more flexibility in the shoulders and chest. Usually I use some shoulder stretches prior to actually having my students try the pose.
Once you are comfortable being upside down in any inverted yoga pose, you can then work towards balancing in that yoga pose.
To make balancing in headstand easier make sure that you use your shoulders to push your elbows into the floor.
Focus on keeping your weight midway between your elbows and head.
You won't be quite vertical but once you can hold this position, and get in and out of it comfortably then you can work towards balancing with all your weight on the crown of your head.
For shoulder stand you again press your elbows into the floor. You can have your weight between elbows and hands but as you get more comfortably you might try shifting your weight so that it is centered over your shoulders. Remember to keep your shoulder blades squeezed towards each other.
For Handstand, you can focus on using your hands to feel your center of gravity. Anytime you notice a shift (via your hands, counter act that shift so that you stay balanced. That can mean using your fingers, moving your shoulders, your hips, or your legs.
In yoga there is the idea of counterposes. These help to bring the body back to a "balanced" state. This can be no less true with inverted yoga poses. You can do these before the inversion or after as I mention below.
Since bound headstand, handstand and forearm stand are all positions in which the arms are in an "over head" position, a good counterpose for the shoulders is an arms behind the back pose. And so you could do
or do a yoga pose like
Note that the most usual counterpose for headstand is shoulderstand.
You could do these counterposes before headstand. In the ashtanga system shoulderstand is done before headstand. In other yoga schools shoulderstand is done after headstand.
Another idea is to rest after doing a challenging inversion. Andrey Lappa suggests sitting upright after inversions. This can give your chance to "center itself" and it is also a chance for you to notice the after effects of a pose. If you just need to rest then child's pose is also an option, particularly after headstand.
Slackline yoga, basic tips for yoga mindfulness while learning to slackline.
Dance of Shiva articles: creating possibility by defining and redefining limits
Yoga Anatomy Notes, using upper and middle trapezius to avoid shoulder impingement.
Standing hamstring stretches differ from seated stretches. If flexibility is limited start with standing poses, it is easier to use gravity to assist the stretch.
Three variations of crow pose and tips for balancing in this arm balancing yoga pose.
Yoga twists: passive and assisted twists for the ribcage, thoracic spine and lumbar spine. Twists can be made slightly easier if you understand some basic anatomy of the spine. You can then apply this understanding to both seated and standing twists and even prone twists as well as twisting positions that include a bind.
Basic yoga poses: standing, sitting, arm balances, binds, twists, inversions, back bending, front bends.
The three yoga bandhas can affect the si joint, hip stability, spine, psoas, breath and posture.
Kneeling and prone yoga poses index: kneeling, semi-kneeling, kneeling reclined and belly down poses.
The balance poses index: balancing on one leg, inverted and semi-inverted poses, arm balances, balancing cat pose and side plank.
Balancing one one foot symmetric/asymmetric forward facing and lateral standing yoga poses index.
Reclining and seated yoga poses index: cross legged, half-hero, lotus, marichyasana, foot behind the head,
Yoga Poses for abs involve either/or stabilizing and mobilizing the midsection, which can mean fixing the ribcage relative to the pelvis or moving it relative to the pelvis.
If you are having a hard time breathing then one possible solution is to focus on moving your spine and ribcage and not focus at all on your breath. Instead make your movements smooth and slow so that your breathing becomes smooth and slow.
Learn to control and differentiate the muscles of the pelvic diaphragm, including the pc muscle. These muscles can have an affect on the Sacroiliac and hip joint and may be useful in back bending yoga postures.
Until Mar 30, Get my newest ebook FAT Shoulder Stretches (And Shoulder Awareness Exercises) for $2.00. Available in PDF, Mobi and EPub formats.
In the following set of shoulder stretching exercises, gravity is used to drive the stretch. This can make it easier to relax and focus on feeling your shoulders (and relaxing them) so that you get a more effective stretch.
New in yoga notes, stretching the biceps. This is for people who have difficulty straightening the elbows because of tight biceps.
This is the first yoga routine I've done in a video format. The class is about an hour long and includes exercises and poses for increasing pressure awareness, stability and mobility.
This is a step-by-step introduction to bound headstand. It shows how to set up neck and shoulders and how to get comfortable being upside down in the pose otherwise known as sirsasana by using a wall to start with.
Yoga Balance Poses
Center of Gravity
Balancing on One Leg