Fear is good. Fear is natural. And I don’t mean that in esoteric, positive-thinking terms, I mean that in real, scientific, psychological terms. Fear comes from the amygdala, the most primitive part the brain. It’s what tells us to look around for the source of that smoky smell, and flee from a burning building. Some of us are afraid of spiders or bees, some of us are terrified that something might happen to a loved one, some of us fear things going poorly at work. Fear plays a role (however small or large) in daily life.
We tend to think of fear as something that must be conquered. Something that stands in the way of asking for a raise or getting over a phobia. But in truth fear is a quite useful, biological impulse that tells you what your subconscious wants to gain or steer clear of. Fear helps us get to the heart of the matter.
That’s why fear of doing inversion poses like headstands and handstands in yoga is so common. Besides the fear of doing it wrong and looking silly, our amygdala is telling us that our head is not meant to be on the ground, our feet are! Instead of fleeing this fear, recognize it for what it is: a completely normal instinct. Of course in the calm safety of the yoga studio, there’s no need to worry about hurting yourself.
If inversions remain an object of fear, there are many ways to ease yourself into them. Using a partner or spotter is one obvious choice. Another option is to start with plow pose (halasana), which has your head feeling like it’s upside down by leaves your feet firmly on solid ground.
When we learn in yoga to be mindful, working with our breath and listening to our body we will always be able to deepen our practice to a comfortable and safe level. There are many benefits to inversions, overcoming fear is the first one.
If you are interested in learning more about making fear work for you instead of against you, you might like some additional reading;