Why Does Being Upside Down In Yoga Scare Me?

O kay I get asked this question more often than you care to know and I want to preface this blog post with the following…

There is absolutely no need for you to master headstand!

It won’t improve the quality of your life…it won’t give you wings…it won’t make you happier than the next yoga student.

Headstand is a yoga posture like any other.

For many students this posture can ignite a lot of fear. You either understand this relation to headstand and fear or you don’t, but if it’s not with headstand it might be with another pose e.g. a strong back arch or arm balance in which case you might be able to relate. Or maybe you’ve experienced an injury in the past and been off the mat for a while, that first class back post injury can be confronting.

So here we have a strong emotion and its not entirely unwarranted, there are things that can go wrong with this pose.

But you might know that you have the physical strength to achieve this pose, you can feel your body is ready, but you lack the courage to actually come up into the posture. In the last month I have had this conversation at least a dozen times. Hence this post.

When you encounter fear on your mat say when you’re approaching headstand instead of looking around or automatically dropping out and resorting to childs pose take a moment, pause, maybe in dolphin pose and breathe.

Feel the emotion, and try and explore the following;

  • What does this feel like in my physical body, maybe it’s in your belly, or the legs start to shake or turn to jelly, or whatever you can tune into physically.
  • What is my breathing doing?
  • Can I just be with this emotion right now knowing it will pass?
  • Can I avoid feeling the need to judge my performance here? And just remain equanamous, be content with whatever the outcome is? Whether I achieve this pose or not.
  • Ask yourself, am I in pain? Is there compression in my neck or other joints? In which case come out!
  • Instead of reacting to the emotion and jumping into the rabbit hole of story telling, can I just be here and breathe.


Ideally you’ll take yourself to the edge of the emotion, meaning you’ll carry yourself far enough into the pose to feel whatever comes up and then try and stay with that for a number of breaths.

What I’ve found through my own personal practise is that even on the mat we are faced with choices constantly do I…

  1. React?
  2. Be present, make a conscious choice, and then Act?

A reaction is triggered by a strong emotion, it happens almost with out a conscious choice or decision made, there is little or no disseminating that happens and little exploration of the possible choices available to us.

Acting or making a conscious choice on the other hand, requires that you sit with whatever comes up, explore it, breathe with it, be present and then make a choice, I will stay here and this is ok, I will attempt to go further and this is ok, I will rest because my body is fatigued or my breath has left me and this is ok…what ever the case might be it’s all part of the practise and it’s all progress…. In this situation you have felt the emotion acknowledged it’s there but not allowed it to drive you.

As I know it, and again it’s only through the repetition of my own yoga practise that I can speak from, this is the case for every emotion… fear, shame, sadness, disappointment, anger. You can react to these


just like we do with the physical sensations we can make some space to just be with and feel whatever comes up. Knowing it will pass.

You might find that with the repetition of practise you actually find yourself doing this off the mat as well. Identifying the emotion, where it is in the body and creating some space between the emotion and self in order to act as oppose to react.

With time and the repetition of practise you feel less crippled by the fear and one day it just happens that you come up.

Working one to one with a teacher can also be massively helpful, having the assistance there to coach you through the practicalities of alignment and keeping your body safe so that you can explore without risking injury and make sure you are preparing your body adequately for this asana as well as counter posing is of course important.

Anyway let me know what you think about the above? Is there a pose that brings up strong emotions for you? What do you find most helpful when these come up?

Big love K xx