It’s never too late to learn something new. In fact, I think it’s necessary to try new things to avoid getting stuck in the same old habits, with the same processes, and thoughts. Learning a new workout move, yoga pose, web design skill, and even a tricky recipe are all hard, but remember the last time you learned something new and practiced until you nailed it? How inspired did that make you feel?!
It’s not easy being a beginner at something, but why not try? Challenge yourself today, and every day, with something new or to get better at what you’re working towards. I promise you’ll surprise yourself.
Today we’re building the strength to invert. That’s right – we’re getting stronger so we can balance on our hands! And at the end of this post, I’m going to announce some BIG news we’ve got going on with prAna.
First of all, take a moment to think about these questions:
- Have you tried or do you regularly practice inversions?
- Do you love or hate them? Why?
- Are you working on any particular inversion or arm balance right now?
Inversions are a hot topic when you start to get deeper into your yoga practice. There are so many benefits of going upside down like they are energizing, help build focus, strength, and confidence, and teach us to let go and play a little in our lives. There is also a lot of fear around the topic and I’m here to hopefully clear some of that up.
Before we get to the playful part, going upside requires strength and engagement in the entire body, especially in the shoulders and core. Inversions are also considered balance postures, so alignment or stacking of hips over shoulders is crucial to maintaining that balance, and that ‘stacking’ will make more sense in just a bit.
Before your feet even go over your head, there are movements and poses that will help you build the strength, balance, stability that you need to go upside down.
Here are my 5 top moves to build the strength to invert:
Think of this as your foundation. Your shoulder, core, and leg muscles are all engaged. Your spine is long and neutral – which is what it should look (and feel) like when you are in an inversion.
If you can’t hold a plank, lower the knees. You are still working the core and shoulder muscles and will build up to full plank.
Hold plank pose for 30 seconds. Try to take three rounds.
Downward Facing Dog/Dolphin Pose
Okay, this is two poses, but it’s generally the same pose, except one is on the hands and the other is on the forearms. This pose is the beginning of getting your hips high, opening up the backs of the legs, and as always, working the shoulders and core – all crucial to handstands/forearm stands. This is technically an inversion, with your feet on the ground.
Begin on your hands and knees in a tabletop pose. Peek to see that the hands shoulder-width distance apart. Step back into a plank position with feet hips-width distance apart and then lift the hips high, while pressing the chest and legs back.
This is the same on for dolphin pose, except your shoulders are stacked over your elbows.
Variations of these poses would be to lift one leg, lower, and then lift the other. Try to keep the core and shoulder muscles engaged and drawing into your midline the whole time.
Hold a static down-dog/dolphin for 10 full breaths. Then try the leg variations and hold each one for 3-5 breaths.
Plank tucks to hip pikes
This is my favorite HIIT & Flow move to build strength for inversions. Your feet are on the gliders (or anything that will help you slide on the ground). Find a plank pose to start. First, squeeze the knees into your chest while keeping the hips low. This will really turn on the core muscles. Slowly, with control, draw the feet back to plank pose.
Then, keep the legs straight, root down through the palms and start to draw the feet to the hands as you pike the hips up and over the shoulders. Your lower belly has to scoop up and in to help you lift the hips high. Then slowly, reverse this movement and come into your plank pose.
Try 10 plank tucks to hip pikes.
Now it’s time to feel what I mean when I say hips over shoulders, which is what you want to feel when you take any inversion. Our feet are still making contact with a hard surface, but this time that surface is the wall.
First, stand a legs-length distance away from the wall. Wherever the heels of your feet are, that’s where the heels of your hands will go. Plant the hands and step the feet the baseboard, so you are in a shorter stance downward-facing dog. Shift your shoulders forward and over your wrists to bring more weight into your hands. Keep the hips lifted. Your gaze is in front of your hands. Step one foot to the wall, at hip height. Bring the other foot to meet it. Start to press your feet into the wall to straighten the legs and send the hips forward, over your shoulders. Your gaze will move to look at the wall behind you. You want to feel the stacking of your hips over your shoulders, which are stacking over your wrists. Press the hands down into the floor and the feet into the wall. Hold and breathe for 5-10 breaths. To challenge yourself, even more, you can lift one foot, lower it, and then lift the other. To release, bend the knees, bring the gaze forward, and slowly step the feet down, one at a time.
You can practice L-Pose on the forearms as well to strengthen the body for forearmstand.
Plank wall walk-ups
This last pose or movement is going to harness all the strength from moves 1-4 to help you walk from plank pose to a handstand facing in toward the wall – essentially kissing the wall.
First, practice holding a plank pose with both feet at the wall. Get there by taking a bent knee plank pose with your feet against the baseboard. Then, step one foot up at a time against the wall at shoulder height and press your feet into the wall.
Start to walk the hands back to the wall while simultaneously walking your feet up the wall to maintain that plank positioning of the body. The walking back will be strenuous. Continue to breathe as you slowly, walk your hands back toward the wall, as you walk your feet up the wall. You’ll be in the final pose when you’re in a handstand position facing in towards the wall. Find your edge along the way here and if necessary, do this gradually more and more every day until you’re in a handstand (ankles over hips over shoulders over wrists).
Come out the way you came in – slowly walk the hands forward and the feet down the wall. Once the feet are closer to the ground, like in L-pose or plank at the wall, bend the knees and step one foot down at a time.
P.S. you can also do this one from forearm plank!
You can catch me doing all these moves and chatting about my love for prAna on today’s Facebook live session. Just click play!
There is one more key factor when you are learning to invert and that comes with practice and just letting go of your fear. I still struggle with inversion-fear, or fear of falling, busting my head and back, and overall a fear of not being in control. So a sense of adventure, play, and a willingness to fail or fall are big components of going upside down.
If you are not ready for the feet to be overhead just yet, don’t worry, keep practicing these 5 moves that you can practice to work your way up to going upside down.
Okay, now that we’ve gotten our sweat and play on, I can announce the BIG news with prAna!
prAna is my go-to brand when I need a new yoga outfit to teach or practice in, when I ’m headed camping and I need layers upon layers to stay warm, and also for new denim (they have a killer denim selection, y’all). It’s also my go-to apparel line because they care about everything they make from the materials (eco-friendly) to the labor (fair labor practices) to the design (stylish and functional). I guess you could say I’m a fan.
As you know we teamed up with prAna for this SweatFest session and they dressed me head to toe in the Ashley Capri and Balletic Tank, and now you can get dressed head to toe in prAna gear because prAna is throwing a FLASH SALE just for our Sweat Pink community. Get 25% off when they shop at prAna.com now until tomorrow night (12/15 at 11:59 pm PST). Just use the code prAnasweatfestF17. Feel free to share far and wide with your audience, because this is too good not to!
Disclaimer: This post was sponsored by prAna. All opinions are my own. I truly appreciate all the brands that support the Sweat Pink community!