8 Tips for Mastering Arm Balances and Inversions

Arm balances and inversions are a fun part of yoga practice that will help to build strength, improve balance and increase mental focus. But what if you’ve never done an arm balance or have yet to master the inversion? Is there still hope?

Growing up, I was “that kid” who flailed about in his front yard, trying again and again to turn upside down into a handstand. I was flat out defeated by handstands and told myself that I would just leave them for gymnasts and skater dudes. So when I began practicing yoga later in life, I resigned myself to the fact that arm balances and handstands were off limits for me. That all changed when I learned to have fun with my practice, and most importantly, learned to fall.

Learning to fall can help us overcome our fears of turning upside down, while keeping us safe. For instance, if you’re entering a headstand without the assistance of a wall, and feel an unsteady waver, tuck your head and roll it out in a somersault. Or if you’re turning upside down into a handstand and feel the telltale signs of a fall, walk your hands out in front of you to avoid flipping.

Once you’ve mastered learning to fall, here are 8 other tips that may help you with arm balances and inversions:

  1. Open – Opening key areas of your body with your yoga practice will make balancing easier. Target areas such as hamstrings, wrists and shoulder girdle.

  2. Visualize - Studies have shown the power that mind training can have on the brain’s ability to rewire itself, and mere thought can alter the function of our gray matter. In yoga, this means that by visualizing or mentally rehearsing an inversion or arm balance, we can yield powerful results in our physical practice.

  3. Be Present – Is your mind wandering to your to-do list? Are you worried about what you might look like in class? If your mind starts to wander to other places, reel yourself back in to the present moment and start your balance over.

  4. Move slowly, move mindfully – The brain’s ability to sense relative positions and movements of different body parts is improved with slow, mindful actions. So, take it slow and enjoy the journey of coming into each yoga pose.

  5. Breathe – When you’re in a pool, exhaling will make you sink and inhaling will help you float. Apply this concept to your yoga mat, and use your deep inhales to help you float in a balance. Long breaths will also help you steady your body.

  6. Focus – When balancing, looking far out in the distance, to the sky, or closing our eyes will make balance more challenging. Instead, find a point on the floor in the direction you would like your body to move. Softly focus your attention on that point as you come into your balance, and you’ll be less likely to fall.

  7. Pivot – Don’t muscle your way into it, find your pivot point! Shift - rather than lift - your weight and you will find balance with more ease.

  8. Let go – If you don’t get the balance after three tries, let it go and come back to it later. This will prevent you from developing poor movement patterns or even worse, an injury.

Using these simple tips can help make your arm balances and inversions easier to achieve and more enjoyable. Remember to keep practicing, stay safe, and most importantly have fun!

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Shyama108, posted on May 29, 2014

Wonderful! Thanks!

bboden, posted on May 29, 2014

I have trouble with arm balances and inversions because my mind gets in the way! I worry about it too much and am afraid of landing on my face. I will take this tips for my next inversion day.

jbgossett, posted on May 28, 2014

Nice in information.

luthien428_2, posted on May 28, 2014

Inspiring story! I loved reading about how something you thought wasn't available to you became a reality later in life! Can't wait to put this into practice on some arm balances for myself! Thanks so much for sharing :)

splynk, posted on May 28, 2014

Thanks for the advice :)

MerryBerry, posted on May 28, 2014

I've become pretty comfortable with the understanding that I may never be able to do a head stand but that doesn't keep my from trying! As an equestrian, I have definitely learned to fall, maybe that will help me get there someday!

tajmooress, posted on May 28, 2014

Great advice- I will work on it.

veghead, posted on May 28, 2014

I have been taking yoga teacher training for the past year and inversions are a challenge for me... never had upper body strength, yet I know it is so much more than that. This was really good and encouraging. I look forward to incorporating these techniques. Thanks!

Deblynn, posted on May 28, 2014

Great advice for sure! Thank you. Hope to master hand stand one of these days.

yogagrammie, posted on May 27, 2014

Great advice! Thank you Kevan! I love inversions and arm balances but as I get older I am finding that if I don't do them for a while it is more difficult to get them back! I better make them more of a habit!

IreneMYO, posted on February 13, 2014

Thank you for your comments. The second page can be accessed by clicking on the arrow, or page 2 button at the bottom of the article. Alternately, you can find page two by following the link below:

http://www.myyogaonline.com/about-yoga/learn-about-yoga/8-tips-for-maste...

Namaste,

Irene and the My Yoga team

bboden, posted on January 23, 2014

I still haven't learned to fall... I can never bring myself to balance in crow pose, but am ok with falling on my butt in bhujapidasana.

yogiibee, posted on January 22, 2014

This challenge allowed me to push my inversions in a healthy way. I am excited as I continue to improve with them. I see a shift in my mentality during inversions, an awareness and strength that is growing with each practice. thank you :)

OmAmy, posted on January 20, 2014

this totally helps, thank you!

kevangale, posted on January 20, 2014

I'm glad you found the tips helpful. Wishing you all well and much fun with your practice.

yogagrammie, posted on January 20, 2014

I'm using this time before getting out of bed to get ready for work to read. I'm reviewing Kevan's article about arm balances and inversions. I use visualization a lot. It seems like the poses come easier when I've done them in my head. I also like the "pivot" and the "let it go". If it doesn't work for me this time it just might the next! Maybe a little more visualization!

CherryBlossom, posted on January 20, 2014

Very applicable to yoga in general too. Inversions I love, arm balances are I struggle for me. Need to cultivate faith. Have a great day!

yogagrammie, posted on January 20, 2014

Great tips! I love inversions, makes me feel young!

tajmooress, posted on January 19, 2014

Thanks for the tips- this prepares me.

kathyslp, posted on January 19, 2014

Wonderful tips. I think the breath tip will help me a lot. Thanks, Kevan

jolieamo, posted on January 19, 2014

:)

veghead, posted on January 19, 2014

Nice encouraging article. I have yet to really conquer arm balances, even doing full wheel. I know a lot of it is in my head. This was a great article to encourage me to go deeper, to breathe, and listen to my body... and know that I can and wil "fly."

yourcloud, posted on January 19, 2014

I definitely get frustrated sometimes when trying new arm balances or inversions. I've come so far in my practice and my little yogi breakthroughs come when I'm least expecting them. Relaxation is the key for me! I think I'm a little scared too sometimes so thank you Kevan for these pointers - when I have things to focus on I forget the fear!

dwp31, posted on January 19, 2014

Great article. I am at the point where I can do some arm balances and inversions, but I think the part of me that is scared is keeping me from mastering the others. I will keep this in mind.

sveltshel, posted on January 19, 2014

Great tips! I can't do balances right now, but I will some day!

maryanzur, posted on January 19, 2014

Visualization and pivot points...and definitely the letting go. Frustration doesn't belong on the yoga mat, so being able to let it go to come back later is a good tip.

hazool, posted on January 19, 2014

Pivot point is so true I am often guilty of muscle over mind thank you for the reminder

kevangale, posted on February 23, 2013

Glad you enjoyed it.

Drakenix, posted on February 23, 2013

Great article. Thank you.

kevangale, posted on January 20, 2013

@cisono also please note that there are two pages to this article. The second page finishes 5. - 8.

kevangale, posted on January 20, 2013

@cisono Hey Cisono,
Consider the opposite, if you inhale and fill your lungs while in a pool you will float. Likewise, it is often easier to float into a balance on your inhale. I was a swimmer so the water analogy works well for me but if that doesn't work for you, just consider the inhale as a tool for lightness.
Happiness,
Kevan

cisono, posted on January 20, 2013

5. Breathe – When you’re in a pool, exhaling will make you sink...

!!! How is that (scary) thought going to help me during my yoga practice though?

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