Transforming Fear to Joy

Easing into Adho Mukha Vrksasana – Part I (Handstand)

Adho Mukha Vrksasana (AMV) fits into a category of yoga poses referred to as inversions. When we invert our body so the head is below the heart and hips, we feed the skull and brain while also quieting the brain and the mind. Reversing the typical gravitational pull on our body has an anti-aging benefit due, in part, to the release of neck and spinal tension. In addition, turning ourselves upside down offers a different perspective, which enhances our self-exploration and inner growth. In particular, when first attempting AMV, what surfaces is fear. Our social conditioning and holding patterns would have us ‘pursue pleasure’ and ‘avoid fear’, but yoga encourages us to accept both equally whenever they emerge.

S/he has not learned the lessons of life who does not every day surmount a fear. Ralph Waldo Emerson

If just thinking about AMV raises fear within you, take your awareness to the location in your body where fear resides. Sit in Virasana or Sukhasana for 3 to 5 minutes holding your awareness on this location as you inhale and exhale gentle deep breaths. Notice if anything else arises. If your fear has not subsided, take more time to sit with it. This ‘witness consciousness’ is how we develop an intimate (in-to-me-see) relationship with ourselves, and how we come to know who we are. When you are ready to return your awareness to the inversion practice below, begin by practicing the Yoga Actions in your seated posture.

HASTA VIRASANA (Hero) or SUKHASANA (Easy Pose) 1-3 minutes
1. From the webs of the index fingers and thumbs with your awareness, track (or draw an imaginary line) along the inner lower arms, inner elbows, inner upper arms into the inner edges of the shoulder blades.
2. From the outer edge of the baby fingers, with your awareness, track (or draw an imaginary line) along the outer lower arms, outer elbows, outer upper arms into the outer edges of the shoulder blades.

SUPTA HASTA TADASANA (Supine Mountain Pose) 10-20 Breaths ea handclasp
– bolster under thoracic spine
– straight arms overhead; palms into wall

BALASANA (Child Pose) 10 Bs each variation
– toes at baseboard
1) hands on floor

2) hands on blocks

ADHO MUKHA SVANASANA (Downward-facing Dog) 5 Bs ea variation
– heels into wall

1) ASHTA CHANDRASANA (Hi Crescent Lunge) — arms raised
2) ANJANEYASANA (Lo Crescent Lunge) — arms raised

– heels into wall, narrower distance between hands & feet

EKA PADA ADHO MUKHA SVANASANA (One-legged Handstand) 5 Bs ea
1) Right leg lifts, toe mounds press into wall
– rest in BALASANA (Child Pose) 5-10 Bs
2) Left leg lifts, toe mounds press into wall
– rest in BALASANA (Child Pose) 5-10 Bs

– heels into wall

Both legs walk up wall, toe mounds press into wall
– rest in BALASANA (Child Pose) 5-10 Bs

SETU BANDHA (Wedge Pose) 3-5 minutes

ARDHA JATHARA PARIVARTANASANA (Bent-knees Twist) 20 Bs ea side

SAVASANA (Corpse Pose) 5-10 m
– weights on wrists

May your fears melt into joy. Namaste.

Picture of Author: Helen Maupin

Author: Helen Maupin

Helen is passionate about transforming fear into love — from her, for her, for all. She expresses her commitment to transformation through writing poetry, self-awareness and yoga books, co-designing organizations into adaptive enterprises and deepening her daily meditation and yoga practices.


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