I have been practicing yoga on my own for years, and I love it all . . . sun salutations, backbends, forward bends, you name it . . . except for the inverted poses. Despite my best efforts, I have never been able to get into them! Can you recommend any exercises to strengthen my upper body so that I will be able to do them, or do you have any other tips to help me take my practice to the next level? Should I have someone help me? Any advice you can offer will be much appreciated!
In my yoga classes, inversions are the poses most people have problems with, so you're not alone. They require balance, strength, and most of all the guts to be upside down. I believe it's possible for all healthy people to do them, so to hear my tips on how to get yourself there, read more.
Strengthening your upper body is a great way to feel stronger when inverted. I recommend regularly doing all variations of push-ups, the challenging Walking Elbow Plank exercise, and Dolphin Dive. I also recommend practicing Crow pose since it will also work your balance.
Flexible hamstrings are also helpful, since they allow you to walk into the inversion. This is much better than jumping into it, which makes you more likely to lose your balance and not be able to hold the pose. So also incorporate Tipover Tuck and Seated Straddle into your stretching routine.
When you're ready to go upside down, start off with the easiest inversion, Tripod Headstand. It's normal to feel nervous that you'll fall, so practice in front of a wall (with your head about eight inches from the wall). Place your head and hands on the mat, straighten your legs, and walk them in as close as you can toward your head. This is considered an inversion even though your feet aren't in the air. If you're feeling ready, rest your knees on your triceps, coming into Tripod Balance. From here, you can work on lifting one leg at a time into the air. If you're in front of a wall, you can easily place your feet on it for support. As you feel more brave you can lift your feet away from the wall and try balancing on your own.
My best advice is to keep practicing and don't give up. As you become stronger and more confident, Tripod Headstand will become easier for you. Once you master that variation, you can move on to other inversions including headstand variations, forearm stand, and handstand. And if you have access to a yoga studio, taking classes and getting one-on-one help from the instructor will help you master inversions even faster.