How to Overcome Your Fear of Yoga Inversions

Have you always wanted to try an inversion but have been too afraid? Mel Torres from Headstands & Heels teaches how to overcome these fears in a safe way.

One thing I guarantee is once you find comfort in going upside down your practice will never be the same.

So first things first, what exactly is an inversion? Handstands, headstands and forearmstands may come to mind but technically any pose where your bottom is above your heart can qualify as an inversion. Yep, this includes that downward facing dog you’ve been doing on the reg. Major inversions can be intimidating, especially for a beginner yogi.

To be honest, I love handstands but I still can’t hold them for more than a few seconds without a wall support. Don’t even get me started on headstands… it took me a year to muster up the courage to even try one. Fast forward almost 4 years later and I truly love incorporating headstands into my daily practice. They’re the best way to clear my head, work my core and improve my flexibility.

Always Warm Up

Warming up is an important step for any activity. Going into a balancing inversion while your muscles are cold can leave you open to serious injury. It’s always a best practice to go through a few rounds of Sun Salutation before trying to go upside down. Not only will it help reduce the risk of injury but you’ll find more comfort in the poses and will most likely be able to hold them longer.

Start With A Wall

If you’re new to inversions, the wall is about to become your BFF. It becomes your safety blanket and removes the fear that you’ll topple over. It’s the absolute best way to start feeling different poses out, seeing how your body reacts and adjusting yourself to ensure your body is in proper alignment. When you get out of your head and let your body just “do” you’ll be amazed at what you’re capable of.

But Then Move Away From It

: After you’ve given yourself some time to really become comfortable with inversions against a wall, try to take that leap of faith and move away from it. The best way to do this is to set up a “crash zone.” Set up some comfy pillows, couch cushions or blankets around your yoga mat so you have a safe landing zone in case your body decides to go rogue. Focus on your technique: using your core to slowly lift into headstand without kicking into it. If nothing else, the crash zone will be there for peace of mind.

Learn How To Fall

If you’re going to take your practice away from the wall then you need an exit strategy.

Learning how to fall is actually quite an art form and it’s an important aspect of incorporating inversions into your practice. No matter how experienced you are, you will still fall occasionally. Take this in and really come to terms with the fact that it’s 100% okay and natural for you to fall while being safe about it.

These are two ways that I fall out of inversions:

  • Supported Headstand – Tuck your neck, round your back, bend your knees and roll forward. If you’ve ever done a somersault as a kid it’s the same concept.
  • Handstand – If you’re not comfortable dropping into wheel pose, lean your weight to one side (whichever side is your dominant hand) and “cartwheel” out of it. Essentially one of your feet should land gracefully before the other follows suit.

Get Out Of Your Own Head

99% of inversion fear is all in your head.

Yes, there is always a risk of injury but if you take the proper precautions and practice patience you will learn to love going upside down. Trust your body and your own strength! If you can hold yourself in plank pose for over a minute you can definitely hold yourself in handstand against a wall. Believe that you CAN do it. The first step in overcoming fear is stepping out of your comfort zone. The rest just comes with a whole lot of practice and humility.

Be Kind To Your Body

You guys, please be mindful of your body. Every day is different and there are times when I float into headstand with ease and others where my body is like “What are you doing to me?” If you have a previous injury and/or have any kind of neck or back pain just say no to going upside down until you’ve fully recovered.

Practice, Practice, Practice

Hate to break it to ya, but you’re not gonna master inversions overnight. You’ll be shaky, you’ll fall, you’ll practice it 100x in one session until your arms feel like jelly and you’re silently cursing yourself that you just can’t nail it. These real life moments happen and that’s all part of the journey! Just remember that all the struggles will be worth it when you can finally hold that inversion for multiple breaths without feeling like you’re going to die. I still remember the day that I could “stop, drop and headstand” as easy as I could drink a glass of wine. Well, maybe not that easy but you catch my drift.

Inversions are such an invigorating and fulfilling part of any yoga practice. Once you start practicing them regularly, I guarantee you’ll be saying YES to going upside down all the time!

Remember – Be fearless. Be mindful. Be patient. And have fun.


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1 Comment
Julianna Kohler

July 25, 2017 at 9:24 am

It looks like this may have been a throw-away comment, but the “if you can hold a plank for a minute, you can do a headstand” is incredibly helpful to me. I’ve never been comfortable with inversions because my upper body strength is nil, but having a goal of being able to do plank for a minute to know that I have the strength I will need is incredibly useful!

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