When Things Get Turned Upside Down: Yoga Inversions


By: Gaia Staff  |  July 24, 2015

You’re never more alive than when things get turned upside down.

::Malcolm Gladwell

Whether misjudging a headstand and crashing to the floor, fired from our job just when we thought we were up for a promotion or dumped after posting “in a relationship” on our social media status for all to see, nothing gets our attention like being confronted by the unexpected. Suddenly, we find ourselves in a surprising new landscape for which we weren’t prepared. We’re staring down change and wrestling with the fear that we might fall again.

The truth is we’re guaranteed to fall again…and again. Like crashing waves, challenges will crest and crumble whether we’re talking about our headstands or our lives. Personally I’ve fallen many times, certainly out of my headstand, but ultimately into a new headspace.

Inversions in Yoga

To me, inversions are a fantastic living laboratory where we can embrace and move beyond things like fear, expectation, and impatience. All at once upside down needs to become right side up, and we have to surrender our tight grip on what we think we can control. We feel tangible postural balance merge with something deeper.

Inversions are an amazing reminder that how we do one thing is how we do everything. They reveal to us that often things are not going to go as we’d planned, but they just might turn out even better that way.

Making the Leap

Starting a new job or relationship is like the leap of faith it takes to turn upside down in a handstand. Though initially our jump may resemble a first handstand in an unfortunate bra, revealing things we had not hoped for…we learn as we go. Frankly, sometimes the catalysts for our evolution are pretty tits-out, upside down. But, if we move through our raw initiation and prove to ourselves a little at a time that we can do it, before you know it, whatever we were attempting becomes an important part of our personal fabric.

When we try too desperately to control the things we can’t, we become tightly wound in lopsided ways that stunt our growth and leave us miserable.

If we litter our inversions or our lives with expectation, we pin ourselves underneath frustration and impatience, which, in turn, erode the courage and humility it takes to try again.

Outcomes Are Not Guaranteed

The bottom line is we can’t control a guaranteed outcome. Even Kino MacGregor and Doug Swenson have days when they can’t balance in their handstand (albeit annoyingly infrequently). And for all of us, life can feel out of control and out of balance sometimes when it comes to work, deadlines, responsibilities, Trader Joe’s Dark Chocolate Covered Almonds, time wasted down the rabbit hole of Facebook…you name it.

The Yoga Sutras

In Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras, abhyasa (perseverant practice) and vairagya (surrendering without expectation of a particular outcome) demand that we resist the trappings of instant gratification our modern society seems to promote. And Pattabhi Jois, the father of Ashtanga yoga, stated,

Do your practice and all is coming.

He didn’t say, “Do your practice and kurmasana (flipping your feet behind your head) is coming instantly.” Nor did he promise results like millions of dollars and six-pack abs. We have to allow incremental progress to eclipse our need to accomplish the finished product. As Ralph Waldo Emerson so famously put it,

Life is a journey not a destination.

What We Can Control

There is one thing we can control, however, and that’s the accountability and integrity with which we show up — on our mat, at our job, for ourselves and for one another. Abhyasa and vairagya ask us to see balance and progress not as a single handstand, but as a part of a larger personal pilgrimage (sadhana). When we look at things through a wider lens, we can see every wobble, challenge and fall as an opportunity to learn and grow. Each time we glean a little bit more wisdom to bring to our next inversion or adventure. And as we do, we start to see that we’re never more alive than when things get turned upside down.


 

Andrea Marcum

Having started in competitive gymnastics, Andrea Marcum, a Santa Cruz, California native, began instructing yoga in 1999 and soon opened her own studio, U Studio, in Los Angeles in 2006.
In a city filled with yoga stars and behemoth studios, Marcum launched U Studio to success through her distinctive core intensive Vinyasa flow classes. U Studio has won critical acclaim, no doubt due to Marcum’s passion and dedication. She relishes in the transformation yoga brings her students and the community it encourages.
When not in her studio, Andrea Marcum teaches workshops and leads retreats in Bali, Costa Rica and around the world. She has been featured in Shape, Self, C Magazine, Huffington Post and the LA Times. Marcum is an Ambassador for Lululemon and Manduka and writes for Gaia, MindBodyGreen, and is a Lifestyle Editor for Origin Magazine. Though her early childhood aspirations were to be a fairy princess, she is pretty happy with the way things have turned out.
“Andrea’s combination of a challenging class, and a great sense of humor are unique, intelligent, and always leave me feeling better when I leave than when I arrived. She is an amazing teacher and I love her class.”
-Heather Graham, actress


 

THERE’S MORE TO YOU THAN YOU THINK

Travel down a new road with Gaia, a member-supported conscious media company. Join our community of seekers, dreamers, and doers to empower your own evolution. Discover over 8,000+ ad-free, streaming videos to inspire and encourage curiosity. Everything is waiting for you; which path will you choose?

What does a conscious company do with $11.99 a month?

Provides an ad-free experience, no exceptions!
Pays the bills without selling your personal information.
Produces, edits, and shares thought-provoking original shows and videos.
Brings scholars, scientists, and even shamans into the studios.
Makes Gaia accessible on your favorite devices.
Keeps our community active and supports its growth.
STEP 1 of 3
Choose your plan
Prices shown in USD
30% Savings Annually

Cost After First Payment

Cost After First Payment

Cancel Anytime

Cancel Anytime

Available on Laptop, Phone, Tablet, and TV

Available on Laptop, Phone, Tablet, and TV

Unlimited Ad-Free Streaming

Unlimited Ad-Free Streaming