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Ready to Completely Transform Your Inversion Practice? Do These 12 Core Exercises

Inversions are some of the most sought after poses in the yoga practice. But, for many of us, they are also the most frustrating. Oftentimes our own fear of going upside down overshadows other essential elements of what it takes to balance.

Did you know that strong core muscles are essential for balancing in inversions? You might have thought so, but you can transform your inversion practice by understanding why they are essential and what core exercises you can practice to strengthen them.

Did you know that strong core muscles are essential for balancing in inversions?

The core is essentially your torso. Its main function is to stabilize the spine and pelvis. The skeletal component of the pelvis is comprised of the:

  1. Left hip bone
  2. Right hip bone
  3. Sacrum
  4. Coccyx (or tailbone)

The main function of the pelvic girdle is to support the weight of the upper body when sitting and to transfer weight to the lower limbs when standing. It is less mobile than your shoulder girdle, allowing for a strong foundation to support the upper body.


Why Are Core Exercises Important to Prep for Inversions?

But what happens when we flip the relationship of the pelvic girdle and the shoulder girdle as we do in inversions?

We call on a more mobile joint (the shoulder) to support the weight of the pelvic girdle. For this reason, developing strong muscles in the shoulders to better stabilize the shoulder girdle will help you to find better balance in your inversions.

But, so will developing a strong core!

Think of the core as the link between the pelvic girdle and the shoulder girdle. The stronger the muscles are that attach to these two areas, the better they can stabilize both the pelvis and spine.

Think of the core as the link between the pelvic girdle and the shoulder girdle.

Strong core muscles coupled with strong muscles supporting the shoulders will transform your inversion practice by creating more stability when balancing upside down. So, some solid core exercises are key!

Learn more about the core’s primary muscles and what core exercises work best: Stop Doing Ineffective Sit-Ups! Use These 7 Yoga Poses to Strengthen and Tone All Parts of Your Core

So, Practice These 12 Core Exercises to Step Up Your Inversion Practice:


1. Hollow Body

Targets: Rectus and Transverse Abdominis


Let’s try it:

  • Lay on your back and place your arms by your sides with your palms facing up
  • Lift your straight legs off the ground maintaining your lower back as “flat” as possible
  • Draw your front ribs in and feel your pubic bone draw up, engaging your rectus abdominis
  • Lift your head and shoulders off the mat and draw your chin in toward your chest
  • Reach your arms straight above your head and three-dimensionally cinch in your waistline, activating your transverse abdominis
  • If there’s a lot of space between your back and the floor, modify by lifting your legs higher, bending your knees, or placing a rolled up blanket underneath your lower back
  • Hold for 10 to 20 seconds and repeat three times


2. High Plank

Targets: Core and shoulders


Let’s try it:

  • Stack your shoulders over your wrists and place your hands shoulder-distance apart
  • Stack your heels over your toe mounds and engage your quads
  • Draw your low belly in and hug your front ribs toward your spine, creating a hollow body shape in Plank
  • Move your shoulder blades away from your spine and push the floor away with your hands
  • Hold for 10 seconds to one minute


3. Inversion Prep

Take this hollow body shape into your inversion prep poses.


Let’s try it:

    • Down Dog Hollow Body
    • Dolphin Hollow Body
    • Headstand Prep Hollow Body



4. Plank Single-Leg Lifts

Targets: Glutes


Let’s try it:

      • From Plank, place your feet hip-distance apart
      • Lift one leg up and keep your heel in line with your hip
      • Set your foot back down and continue this action five to 10 times
      • Keep your front ribs drawing in so that your glutes are the primary muscle group working
      • Switch sides and repeat five to 10 times on each side


5. Scissors

Targets: Adductors


Let’s try it:

      • From Hollow Body, lift one straight leg up so that your legs create an L-Shape
      • Keep your bottom leg hovering off the mat and your low spine on the mat
      • Lift your head and shoulders off the mat and reach your fingers toward your toes
      • Engage your adductors (your inner thigh muscles) as you scissor and switch the legs
      • Repeat five to 10 times on each side


6. L-Shape Kicks

Take the strength from the glute drill and the strength of the inner thighs in the scissor drills to find an L-Shape kick up in each inversion.


Let’s try it:

      • L-Shape Handstand
      • L-Shape Forearmstand
      • L-Shape Headstand


Struggling with Handstand? Try this 20-Minute Handstand Tutorial (Free Class)


7. Tip-Toe Tuck

Targets: Transverse Abdominis, Rectus Abdominis, Hip Flexors


Let’s try it:

      • From a kneeling position, place your hands alongside your thighs
      • Lift your thighs into your chest, bringing your nose toward your knees
      • Move your shoulder blades away from your spine and engage your transverse abdominis by pulling your belly in toward your spine
      • Hold for one to three breaths
      • Return to your kneeling position and repeat five to 10 times


8. Supine Tuck

Targets: Transverse Abdominis


Let’s try it:

      • Lay on your back and bring your knees close into your chest and your heels close to your seat
      • Lift your head and shoulders off the mat with the strength of your core
      • Keep a Hollow Body shape in your front abs as you pull your belly button toward your spine
      • Keep your chin drawing in and bring your nose close to your knees
      • Stay in this tucked position for three to five breaths, rest, and then repeat three times


9. Tuck

Take this compressed shape, thighs to chest as you tuck into each inversion.


Let’s try it:

      • Tuck Handstand
      • Tuck Forearmstand
      • Tuck Headstand


10. Plank Slides

Targets: Hip Flexors


Let’s try it:

      • Put on a pair of socks and maybe choose to use blocks under your hands
      • From a forward fold position, come onto your tip-toes while keeping you palms flat (so bend your knees if you need to) to create a Hollow Body shape
      • Then, shift your shoulders past your wrists as you slide your feet back to a High Plank
      • From High Plank, lift your hips up and pull your belly button toward your spine to slide your feet back to your starting position
      • Repeat three to five times and do three separate sets



11. Leg Lifts

Targets: Hip Flexors


Let’s try it:

      • Lay on your back, lift and straighten your legs so that that they create a 90-degree angle with your body
      • Rest your arms along your side and turn your palms to face down
      • On an inhale, slowly move your legs down until they hover over the ground. Only go as low as you can maintain your low back flat on the mat. If there’s a lot of space between your back and the floor, modify by not going as far down with the legs, bend your knees, or place your hands in a diamond shape underneath your sacrum
      • With an exhale, pull your legs back to your starting position, keep your low back as flat as possible and draw your belly button in and down toward the mat
      • Repeat eight to 10 times


12. Pike

Use the strength of your hip flexors to pull the legs up into a pike position, where your body and legs form a 90-degree angle.


Let’s try it:

      • Pike Handstand
      • Pike Forearmstand
      • Pike Headstand

Need more inversion help? Here are 6 Yoga Poses to Master Before Even Attempting Handstand


Put All of These Core Exercises Together to Rock a Solid Inversion!

Apply all of these actions that you just worked in these core exercises to your inversion practice, whether you’re practicing Handstand, Forearmstand, and/or Headstand.


In all three inversions work these same actions:

      • Hug your front ribs down and your pubic bone up, creating a Hollow Body shape, which will engage your core
      • Gently move your shoulders toward your ears to stabilize your shoulders and create a vertical line in your body
      • Stack your shoulders over your foundation
      • Stack your hips over your shoulders
      • Align your heels over your hips
      • Keep your core firm and your legs and glutes engaged


The Takeaway: Bring Core Exercises Into Your Inversion Prep Practice

Practice these 12 core exercises in preparation for your inversion practice and you’ll strengthen the primary muscles needed to get you into inversions and keep you balancing with more stability.

What are your favorite core exercises to prep for inversions? Let us know in the comments below!


Get more comfortable in your inversion practice

Take this class with Jack Cuneo

Yoga Class
With Jack Cuneo


Images: Katie Fanning

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Cathy Madeo

Cathy Madeo is an E-RYT 500-Hour RYT yoga instructor. Teaching since 2004, Cathy is a sought after teacher's teacher with a passion for educating yoga students and teachers. She makes challenging yoga poses accessible to students of all levels and empowers yoga students to grow both on and off the mat. She holds yearly 200-Hour Yoga Teacher Trainings, workshops, and hosts international yoga retreats.

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