Work Out with Monika: Turn your workout upside down

Monika goes head over heels for an inversion program that helps with back issues

Sarah Birks’ inversion workshop, called Head Over Heels, is an intense and exciting take on more traditional yoga classes. It allows individuals to come out, explore, play and refine these most challenging postures. Although inversions are offered in most class settings, if you haven’t mastered any, trying them in a class setting can be intimidating.

“This workshop allows individuals many different ways to explore inversions, providing options and assistance for students and a step-by-step, safe way into them,” Birks says.   

Warming up  
We begin by taking a few moments of stillness. We then move through some breath work followed by shoulder openers and flow movement to prepare and warm the body and get blood flowing in the arms and shoulders. Core stability is very important for inversions.

Going upside down
We start with some easier inversions like the supported headstand (where you cup your hands around your head with your forearms and elbows on the ground) with Birks spotting me. We also work on my handstand against the wall and then away from the wall. It’s an exciting moment when you’re able to hold the posture on your own! 

The tough part
This is an intense workshop that challenges the mind (getting over your fear) and your balance. It is extremely tough, but like any other yoga practice, you move at your own pace. Birks confides that it took her weeks working in a doorway at home to master her headstand. The postures with your head on the ground can take some getting used to. I preferred the handstands, and others like the dolphin pose (a variation of downward dog with forearms down).

Cooling down
This is my favourite part — I am an expert at shavasana (corpse pose). 

The benefits 
Truth be told, the idea of spending an hour upside down is not my idea of a good time. However, this workshop is exhilarating, and the health benefits are many. Much like inversion therapy, yoga inversions help reverse harmful effects of gravity and, in doing so, are an effective treatment for back issues, reducing mental stress and strengthening the immune system. 

The next day 
I felt great the following day. My back problems seemed to improve and so did my attitude about being upside down.