Last weekend I participated in my first yoga inversions and arm balances workshop. [Notice the use of the word 'first' here. It implies that there will be a 'second', despite the tenor of this post...]. Although I’ve been practicing yoga for over a year now, I have yet to become comfortable with inversions and am downright terrified of arm balances.
I had NO IDEA what to expect. Knowing myself well enough to recognize that I might back out at the last minute, I publicly announced my intentions on Facebook.
No getting out of it now
Thinking of trying a yoga inversions and arm balances class? Here are 5 things you should know before you go!
1. Expect to feel many different (and possibly intense) emotions. Although yoga inversions and arm balances are energizing, many people are surprised by the range of emotions they experience when first attempting these types of poses. Everything from fear to anxiety to annoyance to frustration to elation to sadness to anger.
I left the workshop feeling particularly fragile and vulnerable and couldn’t even sit down to write this post until yesterday. Five days later, I’ve gained some perspective on why I was feeling that way and plan to repeat this workshop the next time it’s offered, not only to improve my physical practice, but to help me work through some ‘life issues’ that my navel gazing revealed.
2. Expect to spend a significant amount of time warming up. My workshop was two hours in length and I anticipated that we would spend most of that time learning the subtleties of headstand, handstand and crow. Wrong!
Because yoga inversions and arm balances require significant hip, shoulder and back flexibility, we spent the first 40 minutes of the evening performing ‘centering’ poses and sun salutations. In addition to warming up the body, the familiar practice helped to ease anxiety and nervousness about the new experience to come.
3. Expect to work with a partner. Many inversions and arm balance poses are difficult to get into for the first time. While a wall can be a useful target (and back stop) when attempting handstand, it cannot help you lift your hips up and over the midline of your body.
I found ‘partnering up’ to be the most anxiety-provoking part of the workshop; if I’m going to fail at something, I’d prefer to do it quietly, in the corner, on my own, thank you very much. I plan on remembering this feeling next time I ask my group fitness participants to ‘find a partner’ and promise to have an option for those who prefer to go it alone.
4. Expect to have sore wrists the next day. Even though you won’t spend the entire class on your hands, your wrists and forearms will get a serious workout. My wrists continued to be stiff and sore for about 4 days after the workshop, significantly affecting my ability to do pushups and make progress on my Christmas knitting.
That being said, yoga inversions and arm balances will help to strengthen your hands and wrists if you regularly include them in your yoga practice. Try the wrist stretches and strengthening exercises in this post.
5 . Expect to fall. A lot. It’s unlikely that your first attempt at headstand, handstand, crow or side crow will be successful. My instructor had us strategically place bolsters (aka ‘crash pads’) to ensure that we didn’t hurt ourselves falling out of a pose. Don’t underestimate the psychological power of having something soft nearby to land on. I was much more willing to try challenging poses with the bolster in place.
My instructor both started and finished the workshop with the following quote:
During the workshop, I interpreted the saying quite literally. I lost count of the number of times I fell somewhere around 12.
Upon later reflection, I came to see it’s universal applicability, reinforcing my belief that yoga is a metaphor for life.
P.S. Having a hard time visualizing the poses I’m describing? Check out this YouTube video I made a few months back of me, attempting crow!
Have you ever experienced powerful emotions while attempting a yoga inversion?
What’s your favourite yoga pose? Why?