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Season 1 - Episode 7

Build Stability for Inversions

15 min - Tutorial


Tension is not useful in establishing a strong and stable base for inversions. With Jacqui's help, Kira shares a pattern that sets us up for a more successful Adho Mukha Svanasana (Downward-Facing Dog) and other more demanding inversions like Sirsasana 1 (Headstand 1) and Pincha Mayurasana (Tail Feathers of a Peacock Pose or Forearm Balance). You might experience a new ease in the neck and support in the arms.
What You'll Need: Partner, Block

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Welcome back. Thanks for being here and thank you Jackie for being here. So we're gonna continue our exploration today arriving ultimately in Down Dog. On the way there though we're gonna check in an action that involves the rotation of the shoulders and engagement of the upper chest muscles and a relaxing of some of the muscles in the neck to allow for an easier practice of both Down Dog and handstand, forearm balance, and headstand. So even though we're not going to demonstrate those, if those are poses that you're working on maybe you'll be able to see how this might help. So I've got my friends C-3PO, R2-D2, and Jackie to help me with this one. You gotta have your team. So the way we'll begin is Jackie is currently sitting on a brick in Vadrasana. You might be sitting on a brick like Jackie or you might be sitting in a chair or you might be just simply kneeling and sitting on your heels. Step one is just shoulder shrugs. So as you inhale squeeze your shoulders up and around your ears and then exhale let them drop and do that at least two or three more times. Squeeze and drop. Beautiful. Squeeze and drop and then maybe in the reverse direction. So back and drop and back and up and drop and back and up and drop. Nice. Now next step we're going to get a sense of the shoulder rotation. So let your arms come out from the sides of you with your elbows soft. Mm-hmm. And so just kind of like soft and extended and as you inhale here lift up through the heart and as you exhale you're going to round your shoulders forward into what we call swamp monster and as you inhale you're gonna roll your shoulders back. Let your heart lift into what we call hallelujah. So as you round you're stretching your shoulder that's not really true you're not stretching your shoulder blades but you're wrapping your shoulder blades around your back body stretching through the back body and as you inhale you're rolling the the shoulder blades back and down tips of the shoulder blades are down and heart lifts so just let that happen a couple more times can you feel the shoulder blades move across and wide getting wings and can you feel rolling them back and down so they become an altar for your heart. Beautiful maybe one more round like that get round again we call this swamp monster nice and then open hallelujah nice okay you can relax your arms down along your side let your let your low back widen and then inhale squeeze your shoulders up and around your ears get kind of hunched up in there and then exhale drop and then inhale squeeze your shoulders up and around your ears and then exhale drop. Now in this next piece we're gonna find hallelujah arms and add an extra element so Jackie will you find hallelujah arms again now as you find hallelujah arms the the rest of you tends to also go into a back arch you tend to look like a hood ornament slightly so you relax down through the low back let that be soft now maintaining this wrapping of the joint this this this shoulder blade rolling back and down draw your elbows so they're right in front of your shoulders yep and then press the heels of your palms together so you keep your elbows where they are and you press the heels of your palms together now as you press the heels of your palms together what we're looking to feel is this engagement in the outer pec muscles does that make sense can you feel that now it's a little bit like one of those old-fashioned 1950s bust enhancement exercises so as you squeeze in the heels of your palms you'll feel the the pecs engage this is the play to memorize this now soften a little bit in the neck soften a little bit in the jaw so that you're really just isolating this movement couple more moments okay because we're gonna call out on this movement this pec engagement that makes sense can you feel that okay okay inhale here exhale relax the arms down along your side and then inhale squeeze your shoulders up and around the ears and then exhale drop and then roll your shoulders back up and around your ears and exhale drop so nice okay so here now what you've gotten you've gotten a sense of the rotation of your shoulders you've gotten a sense of the engagement of in your pecs what we're gonna start to do is practice letting this bear weight a little bit so I'm gonna ask Jackie to come off her brick and you'll place your brick right here in the middle of your mat like so and I just said that as if you were on a mat wherever you are this is where your brick goes and then Jackie will come down onto her forearms and we usually call this even cowgirls get the blues I'm not really sure where that name came from we used to call it hitchhiking dolphin but somehow along the way I got this name so you make fists as if you were hitchhiking and and you're pointing them in either direction like anywhere but here now as you squeeze your fists around the brick you're finding the same wrapping action that you were just doing in that pectoral engagement now you want to be back enough from the brick so that when you drop your head it doesn't hit the brick so you can see like Jackie's gonna make the angle between her in her elbows just a little bit more obtuse meaning just a little bit more than 90 degrees so you've got the wrap you've got the squeeze of the brick can you feel that you've got that little bit of engagement in the packs number some of you of weight-bearing isn't where you're going today you could stay here and you let your head drop and you're looking to allow these little muscles that we'll talk a little bit more in a moment about relax and again if this is enough weight-bearing and strength today you stay here if it's okay though you'll tuck the toes under lift up through the hips and you'll find what we usually call dolphin letting the head drop yes beautiful now remember you can if you were here for the last episode you might remember how to lengthen up through the side waist one side and then the other and your feet can walk as close to your elbows as feels correct for the particular anatomy of your pelvis now can you see how this engagement can you is this okay for a little bit longer can you see how this is a beautiful preparation for forearm balance for maybe headstand it's a little harder to see how it's good for a handstand a few more beats nice okay and then rest come back down child's and rest nice now the play here while Jackie's resting maybe you're resting too but maybe you've already come back up just let your hands come to the the back of your to your what I'm gonna call your your your upper back like you know between your shoulders and your neck okay and just see if you can palpate there a little bit and see if you can find what we sometimes called the steel cables you'll eventually come to these spots that are like oh it feels like the Golden Gate Bridge could be suspended there okay usually these are referred to as levator scapula and you can do a Google image search on that they're running from here shoulder blades up into your neck the next part of our play together here today is how to convince these little muscles that they don't need to do all the work now while you can do this on your own this is super way more easier if you have a buddy so if you don't happen to have a buddy with you today this is something that you can you know eventually do later so pay close attention and it's important for me to give props out to Douglas Keller for this one he's the first one who showed me this okay so what we're gonna do I'm gonna show in this direction first and then we're gonna take it to a wall so Jackie do you mind finding that dolphin pose again one more time so just to show what we're gonna be doing at the wall because it's not gonna be so easy to see Jackie's gonna be setting up in the same way with the heels of her palm against the brick and the wrap and she's letting her head drop now right here about here okay is the spot that I'm gonna eventually be placing my feet okay I'm gonna place the heels of my feet here and then she's gonna tuck her toes under and lift her hips up her head straps and she's gonna walk towards me and the hope here is that I'm providing enough support for this area so that it can relax okay nice so then as you're ready relax and we'll turn this situation around okay so I'm gonna I'm taking this with me okay so we're gonna turn this around now the reason for me to be up against a wall is because if I'm not supported I'm not very good support so we've learned we've been put we've tried this in the middle of the room without being supported it doesn't really work so the break has to be closer than you might want it to be these are one of those moments where you're like really but the break has to be closer than you might think it needs to be Jackie's then gonna set up again now before I put my feet on Jackie the first thing I do is I say Jackie if at any point you want out of this exercise you just say stop okay then second step is I make sure that I'm find the right spot so even though I might have an idea of where that spot is if I don't actually ask I'm not really in a nice person does that feel like the right spot her job is to squeeze and wrap okay and then I'm gonna find the heels of my feet right up about that spot then as she's ready she'll tuck her toes under she'll lift her hips nice and she'll walk towards me does that feel okay and and you just when you play with this you just make sure that you're in the right spot by asking and we'll know it's the right spot if she can keep this wrap and the neck yeah nice does that feel it it seems like it feels good and then heck drops okay so the point here is to provide enough support so the neck can actually relax and she can walk her feet in more if she wants it just depends on you because I've got this wall I'm not pushing into her she's pushing into me nice okay this feels really good usually find out how it feels for you a couple more moments and her job here she's getting used to this this wrapping action this weight-bearing action and this relaxing action so that then as she makes her way into more difficult postures she has a memory of support okay so again just notice if you're doing this or you're watching and you you can see like how this might help with forearms hand headstand eventually maybe handstand nice and then when Jackie's ready she'll walk her feet back and she'll rest nice child's pose no if you're with a body what's nice is that then you get to take your turn I won't make you sit here while I take my turn though okay nice so let's take a look now at how this might be useful in downward-facing dog so Jackie I'm gonna ask you to again turn around again okay so as you go to set up for downward-facing dog step one is coming on to all fours now as you come on to all fours if you're gonna get this nice wrap with the shoulders it's gonna be a lot easier if you let your elbows bend and you find the exact same wrap yeah does that make sense and as you find that exact same wrap then as you start to root through the index knuckle and let the arms draw straighter you engage in that in those pecs that 1950 style make sense so you've got the strength in the pecs you've got the wrap and now this is the this is the best part can you remember your buddy can you remember the support of your buddy and can you let this relax yes I feel okay okay so you let this relax remember that support and maintain ease here then as you tuck your toes under maybe you lift up through the backs of the legs plank pose these are wrapped this is easy yes and then as you make your way back into downward-facing dog drawing the hips back this stays easy this yeah this stays easy these stay wrapped and those and and this area in this upper chest stay slightly engaged nice so pretty does that feel okay Jackie so see how that feels this is again this is one way of millions to do downward-facing dog okay but this is something like those of you that are playing in handstand this is a way to to let this stay easy those of you playing in forearm balance and headstand this is a way to let this stay easy so that you can find structural support not muscular support pretty okay when you've had enough find your way into child's pose and rest arms down along your side palms turn up nice okay so getting to know these actions in some of these simpler postures playing with them just as a way of starting to set yourself up for success for more difficult ones and if you didn't find this useful or helpful or anatomically this wasn't I guess the word is practical then it's not for you like I said there's a million other ways to do it thanks for being here thank you Jackie love

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Mary B
1 person likes this.
Yummiest down dog ever! Thank you, Kira and Jackie!
Louise D
1 person likes this.
Can't wait to practice this with a partner.
Margi Young
Thanks for helping me prepare for my inversion workshop!!   You are adorbs... and "we must we must we must increase our bust... " 

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