Headstand & Fear of Falling

Mercedes Aspland
By Mercedes Aspland / February 24, 2014

I thought I would do a quick post about one of the poses I find most difficult in yoga and that is headstand. Don’t get me wrong I can do a headstand and have done them in the past but have suddenly developed a fear where I am sure I am going to fall and I just have to come down. I find that my breathing is really fast and my whole body is shaking.

The thing I have been wondering is what is causing this fear so that I don’t even like going up against a wall. Like with most things in yoga it must be something that relates to my life and something I am experiencing. The question I need to ask myself is what is causing the fear and how do I release it? In terms of what is causing the fear, I am not completely certain but I have been making a lot of changes in my life recently and maybe it is that. I am afraid of making a mistake in my life, of failing and of picking something that is not right for me.

So what is it that I need to do to overcome this problem. Well my life and the practise of headstand need to work together to help me to release the anxiety I am feeling. I need to take it in stages and practise everyday. With my life I guess it is just a fact of allowing myself to go with the flow and knowing that even if I do fall I can always get up again. The theory is the same with headstand but there are some steps I can go through to improve my practise and reduce my fear:

1. Practise Regularly – this sounds straight forward but part of the problem with fear is you tend to avoid doing the things you find hardest. It is a matter of being determined to overcome the fear and to find time to practise everyday.

2. Start With Support – When practising headstand the biggest fear is that you will not have enough strength in your core and so you will fall backwards. this fear is what prevents you from moving up into a headstand. The best way to start with a headstand is up against a wall which takes the fear of falling backwards away completely.

3. Work in Stages – When you start against the wall you still want to take it in stages. So the first thing to do is to start with just lifting your feet off the ground so you are tucked up in a ball. When you are comfortable with this raise your knees so your legs are still bent and your feet are against the wall. At this stage, practise keeping your core strong and straight. When you are happy here move to the next stage and straighten your legs resting your heels on the wall.

4. Gradually Remove Your Support – Now you have mastered a headstand with a wall you want to gradually remove the support and take the strain yourself. Start by moving 1 leg away from the wall and keeping it straight in the air and then change legs. After a short time, take both legs away from the wall. They will only be a couple of inches away and you can just lean back on the wall at this stage which should give you more confidence. When you can hold your feet away from the wall for a while, gradually move away from the wall, 2-3 inches per day until you can practise your headstand in the middle of the room.

5. Be Kind To Yourself – It is really important when you are trying to get over the anxiety felt in a situation that you do not add extra tension to the situation. Be understanding and accepting of where you are. Enjoy the process and know that you are where you are and know you are still benefiting from what you are doing. This mental attitude will help to reduce the desire to rush and actually enable you to develop more easily.

6. Strengthen Your Arms – It sounds strange when we are talking about headstand but actually most of the work is done by your arms and so as you build up the strength in your arms you will feel more confident about being able to support your weight. Good poses to help you build up the required strength are Downward Dog, Dolphin and Crow.

7. Build Core Strength – You need to lift yourself and hold yourself straight with your core. Doing poses like the boat and plank that will increase your core strength with again give you more confidence.

8. Enjoy Yourself – This is similar to 5 but focuses more on the pleasure of inversions. Try smiling while upside down and allowing a feeling of happiness to engulf your whole body.

I hope this helps you with your headstand practise and I will let you know how the progress goes with me and when I manage to hold my headstand in the middle of the room.

About the author

Mercedes Aspland

Mercedes is a Yoga Sports Coach with experiences working with athletes from many disciplines and experience levels. She is keen to spread the word of how valuable yoga is to sport. With additional qualifications in nutrition she also shares a number of recipes and nutritional advice to keep you fuelled while training.

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