Inspire With Every Practice – The path to arm balances & Inversions

“Those that have tripod headstand in their practice, go ahead”, as the teacher instructed while we were holding in wide-legged forward hold. I remember tilting my head up a little while holding the pose (struggling) and saw a lady in front of my mat went upside down steadily and gracefully.

That day was etched in my mind till date, and thoughts came flowing in such as “how long did she practice to be able to do that?” and “how does it feels like being upside down and in control”. That day marks the start of my journey to the world of arm balances and inversions.

As my practice takes me deeper into the world of yoga, I fell in love with being upside down or on my arms. It wasn’t easy, really, even as a guy. People often misunderstood that being a guy gives you the extra advantage to learn it faster than a lady by utilizing pure strength alone, but the truth is, it doesn’t. I’ve attended inversion classes with guys that were bulked from countless gym sessions and they too struggled badly trying to go into crow or headstand, till the point they tried to lift using strength itself. The shaking arms and holding of breath, as well as face turning red from frustrations, was obvious.

Yes, you may try to push through using just strength alone. When I started out trying to get into crow, I too, tried to push through using strength after being frustrated from multiple failed attempts. But at the end of the day, I exhaust myself out unnecessarily with a sore wrist and still unable to hold the pose comfortably with ease. To me, the practice taught me to be consistent and patient with myself, the control of focus and emotions play a big part in this journey.

Through my journey of progression in the world of arm balances and inversions, I’ve learned techniques and methods from others through their priceless experiences, which enables me to share it with others. Learning the pose just the start, to work up to holding the pose with ease using the least effort is another. Being in the midst of it brings a sensation that it is indescribable. For that moment, you’re focused on your breath and within a world of your own, your own kind of meditation.

I would like to end off by sharing a few ‘rules’ I’ve learned in my journey. These ‘rules’ has helped me a lot by giving me clear objectives and focus, which brings progress.

  1. Be extremely patient with yourself. It is very important to not beat yourself up when you don’t get it initially, know that this is a lifelong journey of practice and there is no end to it. 
  2. Do not compare with others. More often than not, people conveniently look past the efforts of others to reach a certain pose. It is never easy, just focus on yourself and build your own journey.
  3. Focus on quality, not quantity. You want to do a proper good attempt with effort than tiring yourself out unnecessarily over multiple lousy ones. It delivers better habits and results than mindlessly push yourself up over and over again without proper rest in between.
  4. Be ritualistic. How do you get into crow or headstand? Build your own method of executing the pose, and follow that method strictly with every attempt, improvise it as you progress. Being ritualistic in inversions and arm balance gives me the proper momentum, preparation, and ensures success in executing the pose.
  5. Recap every attempt. Learning a new pose? Had a good or bad attempt? Don’t just brush it off. Summarise your last attempt and ask questions within yourself like “How was my hand placement?”,  “Where was my focus?”, “Why was this attempt successful?” etc. 
  6. Preparation before execution. I cannot emphasize this enough. Have a proper warm-up is vital before commencing your attempts. Identify your weakness and work on them. Never rush to attempt the pose if you feel that the areas required aren’t ready.  For me, my wrist is my weakness and I spend extra time on it before attempting anything. Spending that extra time goes a long way to ensure you are able to continuously practice. Imagine injuring your wrist (which happened to me) and out of practice for weeks or months, it regresses your practice physically and emotionally.
  7. Make use of your props. Your blocks, straps, and wall are your best friend. Use them to your fullest potential. It gives you a sense of security and proper alignment to ensure good fundamentals, which trains you to be steady in any inversions or arm balances.
  8. Be kind of yourself. This falls in line with Ahimsa, one of the Yamas. You are your own doctor and your know yourself the best. Feeling fatigued? Give yourself that rest day to progress further. Getting sore hips or wrist from attempts? Take an active break for a few minutes before continuing your attempts. Sufficient rest is very important because there is so much your body can take before it breaks down. 
  9. Consistency is the key. My key belief in any practice, not just inversions and arm balances. And I don’t mean putting hours of training every day.  Just set aside an attempt or two every day and carry on with your day whether good or bad attempt. It trains your mind and body to push through that boundary and be comfortable in that position gradually, which provide results.