Should You Kick/Jump into Inverts and Inversions?

In theory the correct answer is probably no, or at least as little as possible. But that would require us to live in a perfect world where we are all patient enough to build all the required strength and flexibility first, even if it takes years… In practice/real life, there is a bit more nuance. It depends on what exactly you’re trying to do, how much momentum you need, and what setting you are in.

As long as you are an adult and know and really understand the risks, I think you can make your own decisions, as long as it doesn’t impact others. One issue with that is that not everyone fully understands the risks; some teachers might not have bothered to explain, or possibly don’t even know or care about them.

Inversions

By this, I mean headstand, handstand, etc. Moves you might see in yoga and calisthenics, and a bit less often in aerial and pole.

My opinion on this is a bit more conservative. I’ve seen people kick up and fall on others in a crowded yoga class. Once someone fell on their neighbour’s mat and crushed the glasses that were placed there. And this is despite the fact that teachers usually actively discouraged inversions for those who aren’t steady in them yet. If you’re in a crowded place, please be considerate don’t use any kind of momentum to get upside down. You can learn in a safer and more comfortable setting.

It’s debatable how much value there is in kicking up into an inversion where you need a wall or a person to hold and stabilize you. Trying it very occasionally (and carefully) just to see how it and to help overcome the mental barriers to inverting may be worthwhile. But practicing like that regularly is risky, and might not even lead you “proper” inversions, since you’re always relying on some kind of prop. I was able to kick up into a headstand next to a wall years before I could lift into headstand in the middle of the room, and didn’t find it to be an easy transition. In classes where kicking is encouraged I’ve sometimes seen instructors help students get into bad, banana shaped, inversions that don’t look like they’re benefitting anyone.

As I wrote about here, I think the best way to learn headstand is slowly, in the middle of the room, and with no kicking or jumping. Some people teach it this way, others suggest a wall or momentum. If you really want to try it that way, make sure there is enough space around you, that there is someone spotting you (who knows what they’re doing), and that you know how to exit/roll out if you lose your balance. But keep in mind that there will be pressure on the neck, which is not a body part you want to risk injuring.

Handstands are taught very differently in my experience. Using a wall and kicking is often encouraged. Your flexibility will also make a big difference here: it’ll be easier to get up if you can get close to standing splits rather than only raising the leg just above 90°. I don’t know if I can offer the best advice here given that I still can’t do a handstand, but there are other ways to learn. Make sure that you know how to exit if you kick too much (if you’re very flexible this could be through a backbend, but there are other ways), and that there’s no one around you except a spotter.

Similar considerations go for forearm stand (pincha mayurasana) and chin stand (ganda bherundasana). Especially in the latter, there is also a great demand placed on upper back flexibility, and pressure on the neck. I’ve seen it taught with various amounts of blocks placed under the shoulders to put you in the right position, but that can be quite risky if your body isn’t actually ready for it. I’m verly slowly working on both of those, but not through the kick up method. For pincha, I will raise one leg and then try a little bounce (ideally I think the other foot should come off without it), but spend most of the time just in dolphin strengthening my shoulders.

Woman doing handstand

Inverts

By this, I mean any kind of movement that involves going upside down to mount an apparatus (for instance aerial hoop, trapeze, pole, silks, or just a bar). We’re talking about inverting off the floor, since you don’t really have the option to jump or kick in aerial inverts.

There is a pretty big range here. Some people are pretty fearless even when they don’t have a lot of strength, and I’ve seen some really wild kick ups and jumps to get upside down. Some actually have a lot of strength but have fear a mental block and need assistance to move into the pose. Some are most of the way there, but not quite, and just need a tiny jump at the beginning.

Some people lump all those together and advise against it all. I think there’s an element of gatekeeping to that and would disagree with it. I still remember how it feels to be unable to do anything, and how exhilerating it feels when you can finally invert on your own, even if it’s far from perfect. For someone with weak upper body & core strength inverting can be very demoralizing at the start and turn you off aerials completely. But if you get a taste for what’s possible and a chance to really fall in love with it, that can motivate you to be more patient and do the required strength training. The goal should be to remove the momentum as soon as possible.

That said, there is a limit. If you’re doing a tiny jump, I think it’s acceptable; if you’re kicking with all your might, it’s not. The other factor to consider is how much your momentum is making the apparatus swing (if it’s not static, for example hoop or trapeze). If you’re crashing into other people or need someone to steady you, reconsider how you’re getting on. Another workaround / intermediate stage can be getting your feet to the bar (if applicable to your apparatus) and go from there. Always go as slowly as possible on the way down, this will help you build the required strength.

Hopefully it’s obvious, but I also assume you’re using good crash mats and not practicing completely on your own. If either of those are not true, stay on the safe side. I’m also assuming that whatever variation you’re doing, your instructor is okay with it. Use your common sense. If you’re feeling tired, or your grip has weakened, take it easy and save it for next time.

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