How to overcome the fear of headstands

How to overcome the fear of headstands has been a huge challenge for me in both group classes and my yoga home practice, here are some things that have helped me.

For quite some time the concept of standing on my head or doing various inversions kept me away from attending yoga classes. I am clumsy at the very best of times and why on earth would I want to risk making an absolute fool out of myself in front of a bunch of far more delicate yogi strangers?

A simple definition of what classifies an inversion would be any position that allows your heart to be above your head. Sounds absurd, think headstand, handstand or simply touching your toes. It is important to make sure that you are taught step by step progressions from simple inversions to more complex positions. Inversions take time, practice, strength, balance and lots of patience!!!

I have had a mental block about doing a headstand or handstand in my yoga practice. Admittedly I can be an absolute control freak and my natural competitive streak can be very detrimental. I like to learn the fastest and be the strongest, lets just say it has its pro’s and cons.

When I glance around at others in a yoga class what I can’t help notice is that everyone has ‘their’ pose. What I can do really well, somebody else struggles with and vice versa. Men usually manage the held poses and headstands with ease. Naturally they have stronger upper body strength but women tend to manage the crazier flexibility binds and poses more comfortably. Again it doesn’t mean either is unobtainable or gender specific, it is simply the difference between a male/female physiological make up.

The other day I heard the teacher say to a fellow student:”Don’t only practice the things you are good at!” He couldn’t have been more right.

My goal over the last few weeks has been to leave the comfort of my feet on the ground, to let go of my fear of failure and basically get my legs up in the air. I found these tips the most useful to help me get over my insecurities:

  1. Proper warm up: The flexibility sequences you do at the beginning of a yoga class not only warm up your muscles but regulate your breathing and improve your level of concentration. Nobody starts a class with inversions so nor should you when practicing at home.
  2. Regular practice: Regular practice will help build strength, courage and confidence.
  3. Listen to your fears but don’t allow them to dictate to you: Fear is an under valued tool. It shouldn’t rule your decisions but once you learn to recognise the signals and your senses are on high alert you can learn to use them to your advantage.
  4. Have a safety net: Start by practicing against a wall or get your teacher or friend to spot you. Both options give you support and reassurance.
  5. Respect your limitations: Don’t try to rush yourself. Build your strength slowly and acknowledge the progress you are making.
  6. Don’t take yourself too seriously: Remember to have fun, as much as it may frustrate you, enjoy the process of learning. Laugh with yourself, it is a great way to de-stress!

In just a few weeks I already feel far more confident, my overall flexibility has improved and even though my husband still has to spot my legs I can acknowledge my improvements! I can now manage a headstand against a wall with minimal effort.

Everyone is a beginner at some stage so don’t let your ego get in the way of trying new things.