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