Mastering Inversions

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As lots of you know I’m a huge yoga fan, it’s a big part of my life and it makes me so happy! In the last few months I’ve gotten a lot stronger, which is awesome as it means I’m able to push myself a little more and explore more fun and challenging poses, like inversions. Saying that, inversions are so hard and I get so scared when trying them! I’ve made great progress, especially with my headstands but I thought I’d ask one of my absolute favourite yoga teacher, Celeste, to share some tips, tricks and words of wisdom to help you all with your inversions as I know it’s something that lots of you are working on too! So, over to Celeste…

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Aargh to invert! What a concept. Something I was never really that interested in I must confess. I started going to yoga because I wanted stronger arms. I wish I had a nice way of saying this, but they were quite pathetic, like two soggy parsnip chips hanging off my body. I was determined to get them stronger! So off to yoga I trotted and in each and every class I could feel my two little soggy chips transforming into yoga pose killing machines. “Awesome job, this is why I am here. Let’s get stronger arms!”

One day after the class finished, the teacher tentatively invited any students who wished to learn headstand to stay for extra practice. Still to this day I don’t know what made me hang around, but I did. Like an uninvited guest at a party, unwilling to really try anything the teacher was showing, I just sat there looking at the various levels either struggling up against a wall or elegantly floating up. I found the floating inspiring. But even more admiration was felt for the people who were struggling and yet for some wild unknown reason kept persevering.

Little did I know that ten years later I would be known as: “The yoga teacher that gets you to do what you DIDN’T THINK YOU COULD DO.” I wear those words with so much pride, because it took me AGES to figure out how to do most arm balances and inversions. When I started noticing the shortcuts I wanted to tell EVERYONE, “Don’t waste years like me, falling flat on your face. There are cheat sheets people. Try this, or this, or this… and BOOM! You’re world has been flipped upside down with ease.”

Obviously there are poses where you do need to put more effort in than others. But I was getting people with no previous yoga experience comfortable on their heads from day one! And in just a few short weeks, ordinary people were doing poses that should surely only be seen in Cirque du Soleil.

You might be thinking: “Celest, that’s exactly what all this crazy arm balancing stuff is. Nothing but tricks! There is no depth to it!” Maybe you’re right, but I have seen more smiling faces than I can count when the student finally takes a leap into the unknown and conquers a fear. Something about their beaming eyes and toothy smile, it literally makes my heart skip a beat. In addition to this, so many of these students have come to me after a few months and said, “You know Celest, I used to be so much more anxious and fearful. It used to stop me from doing things, things that could help me move forward. Now I still have that fear, but I know that giving in to it stops me from progressing in my life. Yoga has really helped me step into fear and accept whatever happens.”

You can only imagine how excited I get when I hear these words. It makes me realise that the stuff I’m teaching might look superficial, like they are just tricks, but actually they are making a huge contribution to helping people live happier lives. And the added bonus is our soggy arms are now healthy and strong! We can carry our heavy shopping with no complaints. All I can say is, if you are curious about it. Go for it! You’ll be amazed at how good you can feel!

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Five tips for someone starting inversion practice

  1. Take it step by step

Sometimes inversions as the final product are crazy hard. But there are ALWAYS stepping stones, that you can use to scale back on what you are doing to build the necessary strength and flexibility. If going into the full pose is too hard, look at the pose and find out what the first step needs to be to get you there. For most people getting stronger arms is a good place to start. So start doing those beloved push ups :)

  1. Find a good teacher that weaves inversions into the class and ask for help.

Most teachers would love to share what they know with you. So don’t be afraid to go up to the teacher and ask for help with certain poses. If they can’t help, ask another teacher, till you find the one that you are most comfortable working closely with. Ask them if they can spend 2 minutes with you at the end of class and you never know what amazing things you might learn in that short space of time.

  1. Look on YOUTUBE

I did lots of YOUTUBE(ing) when I first started looking for the progressive steps that would help my inversions. That is one of the reasons I started my channel http://www.youtube.com/cityogitv. I wanted all the poses in one easy to find place for people that didn’t know how to do arm balances and inversions.

  1. Keep going – even when it’s tough

It will be tough at times. Yes you may fall. You might even get sore muscles, as you work parts of your body you didn’t know you had! But the persistence you develop in your practice is a great skill to have in general life. I promise that through your persistence you will progress. The mother of skill is repetition! So keep practicing!

  1. Enjoy yourself!

Life is too short to give yourself a hard time about not getting into an inversion. Remember the reason you got into yoga in the first place. For most people, yoga made them feel good! So enjoy your journey learning new stuff. Life can sometimes be quite dull and boring. We wake up, work, eat, sleep, repeat. Learning new stuff is a way to feed the mind and that can be really fun!

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