Freya Bennett-Overstall - The Yin & Yang of Inversions

Episode 139

70 mins

Freya Bennett-Overstall - The Yin & Yang of Inversions

May 5, 2024

Jo and Rane dive head first (figuratively speaking) into the world of inversions with Freya Bennett-Overstall, a respected chiropractor, yoga and meditation teacher, author, and a familiar voice on our podcast. Freya brings her unique perspective to the topic of inversions, delving into the "yin and yang" aspects of these transformative postures.

In this conversation, we explore the benefits and considerations surrounding inversions, following Freya's recent introduction to our style of aerial yoga. Conversely, Freya has also shared her experience with the FeetUp trainer, a tool that offers a safe and accessible approach to inversion practices.

Freya's expertise spans a wide range of disciplines, including chiropractic care, movement education, and a deep understanding of the body's intricate mechanics. With a holistic approach, she skillfully bridges the gap between Western and Eastern philosophies, providing a comprehensive understanding of the physical, emotional, and energetic aspects of inversions.

As we delve into the "yin" and "yang" of these practices, Freya offers insights into the restorative and dynamic aspects of inversions, guiding us through the physiological, emotional, and energetic effects of reversing the force of gravity on the body. Her wisdom extends to safety considerations, contraindications, and the importance of gradual progression, empowering practitioners to explore these postures with confidence and mindfulness.

Freya's passion for empowering students and cultivating a non-judgmental, playful atmosphere shines through, as she shares teaching strategies and effective communication techniques for guiding students through inverted postures. With her second appearance on our podcast, Freya once again captivates us with her depth of knowledge and commitment to promoting transformative movement practices.

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Rane Bowen: Hello. My name is Rane and this is the Flow Artists podcast. Together with my co host Jo Stewart, we speak with extraordinary movers, thinkers and teachers about how they find their flow and much, much more. Before we dive in, we want to take a moment to acknowledge and honour the traditional owners of the unceded land where this episode was recorded, the Wurundjeri people of the Kulin nation. We pay our deepest respects to the elders, both past and present, and acknowledge the emerging leaders within their community. This week we have a much loved guest returning to the podcast, Freya Bennett Overstall. Freya is the author of Wonderful Woman, Attune and Bloom, Eat, Move and meditate with the seasons. She is a doctor of chiropractic, a mindfulness meditation, Qi gong and yoga teacher. She's also sometimes known as feet up Freya as she teaches classes using the feet up trainer, a padded wooden stand which can help support inversions and other postures. We cover all aspects of inversions in this episode, from the physiological effects to the energetic and emotional ones. We discuss the contraindications and benefits of turning ourselves upside down, as well as our personal experiences. We compare different types of inversions from traditional floor based practises like handstands and headstands, to more supported and restorative postures, including how props like the aerial hammock and feet up trainer can facilitate shapes that are both supported and strength building. We also cover safe teaching strategies and ways to work with the fears that can come up when we turn our world upside down. It's a great conversation about a movement practise that we all love and we really hope you enjoy listening. But before we start with the conversation, I'd like to ask you to please leave a review for the Flow Artist podcast on Apple Podcasts. Spotify good pods or wherever you listen to your podcast. It really helps us reach a wider audience and lets folks know we're all about. All right, let's get into our conversation with Freya.

Jo Stewart: Well, hey Freya, thank you so much for coming to visit today. And thank you for leading us through a play session on your feet up trainer and also jumping in the hammock so you could explore our take on inversions or the aerial yoga take on inversions. Really excited to talk all things upside down today. Would you like to lead us in by talking about some of the physiological effects that inversions can have on our body and some of the benefits that can come from that?

Rane Bowen: Sure.

Jo Stewart: Hi.

Freya Bennett-Overstall: Yeah, thanks. Today was great.

Jo Stewart: Yeah. So fun.

Freya Bennett-Overstall: If only the people on the podcast could have that fun too.

Jo Stewart: They can come to your class. Oh, and your class.

Freya Bennett-Overstall: So I digress. So the physiological effects. So, basically, an inversion is when we go upside down and there's various forms. So you could have more energetic versions versus more restorative or less energetic versions. So I tend to class them as yang and yin. We did both today. But basically it's reversing the effect of gravity on your body. So you end up with a lot more blood going to the brain, you'll end up with a lot more drainage from legs, you know, someone who has swelling in the legs, things like that. That can be really beneficial coming into an inversion class.

Jo Stewart: So I'm not sure if this is a physical decompression of the spine and especially of the neck, but if you're doing the type of inversion where you've reversed the way that gravity is normally working on your body, so thinking of the neck, instead of it having to work to hold your head up a lot of the time, it gives you a chance to let the muscles of the neck relax. It can feel like your neck is getting longer because the weight of the head is gently tractioning your neck down. My understanding is the only way your spine would be lengthening is if you were reversing some of the curves in the spine.

Freya Bennett-Overstall: Yeah.

Jo Stewart: So if you normally had a very arched back, say, and then you hung upside down, that would traction into a longer line. And if you stay for long enough, you might get a bit more fluid, replumping your intervertebral discs the way that you would if you're asleep. I'm not sure how long you'd need to be upside down. I'd say that's more likely something would happen in a passive shape where you can be there for at least a few minutes. Yeah, yeah.

Freya Bennett-Overstall: And I think it depends on what type of inversion, like we were just exploring. You know, there's such a difference between using a feet up trainer and being in a hammock. So, for example, some of the poses you were showing, you know, where we've got the hammock around our waist, you're getting that full spinal traction, whereas you're not getting that so much with the feet up trainer. You're getting the traction of the neck, but not as much because you're not getting that lift unless I'm standing there.

Jo Stewart: Totally. Yeah. It's where you're being suspended from. And I think that brings in another benefit, because if you are using your own energy to make the rest of your body upright, the way you would in a handstand or headstand, there's a lot of strength. Then you build finding that line and also proprioceptive awareness, feeling where your shoulders.

Freya Bennett-Overstall: Are, above your hips and where your legs are.

Jo Stewart: Where your feet are. Yeah, yeah, definitely. And I think leading into some of the more emotional benefits, that can feel very empowering. Like, sometimes it can be a little bit scary or intimidating. And so to move through that phase and to take on something that you didn't think you'd be able to do and have that feeling of, like, yes. Like, I'm holding myself in this position. Like, I feel strong and I feel balanced.

Freya Bennett-Overstall: It's interesting you say that out of all the different kind of workshops or classes that I've taught over the years, it's the feed up classes that people get the most emotional kind of breakthrough, if that makes sense. It's like. And you see people at the end.

Jo Stewart: It'S like, oh, my God, I did it.

Freya Bennett-Overstall: And everyone's, like, on a high. Or you can see people really trying to work through, you know, I can't do that. I just can't do it. I can't do it. And then eventually they do, and there's a huge. Yeah. Which is the same with the hammock. Right. Like, you. I can't remember which one it was. You were telling me, and I was like, oh, can I do this? I don't know if I can do this. Can I let go and do this? And then you do it.

Jo Stewart: You're like, whee. Yeah, yeah. And that's definitely, like, that is the nuance of teaching these poses to, like, give people that support and encouragement when you know that they are actually physically stronger than what they think and they will be safe in these poses. I know that people have had bad experiences in aerial yoga classes where maybe they feel like they've been pushed into something they weren't ready for or, you know, like, excitement and fear can be a very similar physiological state, and it's just how you're reading those messages from your body and how you're feeling. So I think that's probably a good.

Freya Bennett-Overstall: Segue to go into the contraindications.

Jo Stewart: Yes, yes.

Freya Bennett-Overstall: Of the inversions, because, like you said, depending on the class and the teacher, I've also had yoga teachers who've had bite, a feed up trainer and injured themselves because they're just not going into it safely.

Jo Stewart: Yeah. So that's a situation where your weight is resting on your shoulders.

Freya Bennett-Overstall: Yes.

Jo Stewart: Do you want to talk through some of the cautions around weight bearing in that area.

Freya Bennett-Overstall: Yep, yep. So a caution, obviously, is if you've had any shoulder injury or shoulder surgery, it can be an issue for some people saying that I have had people with shoulder surgery and injuries and they've been fine. So, again, really depends on the individual.

Jo Stewart: And so how do you know? Have you got, like, some building block poses where people can cheque in?

Freya Bennett-Overstall: Yeah, definitely. As we were discussing and sharing earlier today, there's that, you know, you've got to come to find where your shoulders are and where your head is in space. It's that whole proprioception and interoception. It's really drawing on working out where your body is in space, but not only where it is in space, but where it is upside down in space, which is like another level again.

Jo Stewart: And so when you're doing those ones, people's feet are on the floor, right? Yes. So they're still on the floor above their head, but their feet are down.

Freya Bennett-Overstall: Yeah, yeah. And they're just slowly getting used to what it's like being upside down, having pressure on the shoulders, releasing through the neck and the shoulders, because we unconsciously will just hold on. It's like, oh, my gosh, this is new. I'm just gonna hold on really tightly and be really tense, and then that can result in injury.

Jo Stewart: And I know that people who have migraines, that's a particularly sensitive area, so it can be really helpful to release tension held there. But also, if anyone feels like a migraine is potentially on the way, going upside down is a really bad idea because the last thing they need is more blood pressure to the head.

Freya Bennett-Overstall: Yeah. Yep. So we have situations where some people will come into the studio sometimes and feel a bit sinusy, and that's. That's a different headache, in a way. And so there are certain little we were playing with. Massaging ourselves on the feet up trainer today and releasing some tension around the neck and some acupoints around the neck and the shoulders, and that can actually help. But, yeah, if you've got anything like a migraine coming on, if you've got any, you know, if you've had a recent stroke or concussion or any head injury or trauma, it's definitely a contraindication. Also, if you're someone with glaucoma, so that's extra pressure in the eyes or any eye infections, even. It could be too much, or a tooth infection, anything that's basically inflamed in the head. If you go upside down, that can be too much. So it's not a good idea to come in, then.

Jo Stewart: One thing that they told me about in my aerial yoga training was recent Botox as well. Apparently, if you had a Botox injection and you go upside down, it can move around to a different part of your face.

Rane Bowen: I'll keep that in mind.

Freya Bennett-Overstall: And it's just like, who? Like, I guess it's important to say and not even. It's also the fillers, because fillers are quite popular these days, too. Yeah, I think it's more. I don't know if it would. Maybe it would move. I'm not sure that's what they told me.

Jo Stewart: Yeah, yeah. But maybe, like, it's one of those. I know, like, the wrong part of your face is paralysed.

Freya Bennett-Overstall: Yeah, that wouldn't be good.

Rane Bowen: I'm just sort of wondering if we should actually describe what the feed up system is for someone who might be just listening to this audio.

Jo Stewart: Yeah, yeah, sure.

Freya Bennett-Overstall: So it always invokes a giggle because I describe it, it looks a bit like a squatty potty, but it's not a squatty potty. But there is a cushion. My set that I have in the series in the studio does look like a squatty potty because the cushions are all white, but they can come in multiple colours and they've got little feet. It's almost like a little table with a cushion on top of it with space for your head to relax through and your shoulders are supported by the cushion. And then. So it's considered a partner. When I was doing some of my training, they were saying, think of it like having a partner in practise. So it's not only for inverting, you can do all sorts of other fun things on it, like we were doing today. So you could do a feet up Shivasana where you're resting, you're lying on the floor, but you're resting your legs up on the trainer and you can self massage in that position as well. You can do beautiful shoulder stretches, arm stretches, torso stretches, stretches. So you can sit on the trainer, you can have your legs on the trainer, you can have your shoulders upside down on the trainer, you can do all sorts of. If you google feet up trainer, you might see some very interesting results.

Jo Stewart: And so I found the main benefit for me using it. Firstly, you don't have the fear element of weight on your head and anything happening to your neck, but also it gives you some good stuff to, like, grip onto and hold onto. So you can use your arms in a bit more of an active way than, say, something like a tripod headstand where you can only push down with your arms, it just gives you a much more stable base and a little bit more opportunity to bring yourself back to balance. If you feel like you're leaning away from balance.

Rane Bowen: I like the fact that, say, if you're doing headstand on the floor with, say, your hands on the floor, I mean, you can't really grip anything with the feet up. You can actually. So you've got sort of two angles of resistance, I guess, or being able to manoeuvre yourself.

Jo Stewart: And I guess that does bring us to another aspect of cautions and contraindications. When you're going upside down, like when it comes to the lift up, depending on what you're doing, if you're doing something like the feet up trainer, where you're working up into gravity, I think that's actually quite good because you are building that strength on the way up. So by the time you've made your way to vertical, you're normally strong enough to be safe there.

Freya Bennett-Overstall: Yeah.

Jo Stewart: But if you've got any lower back issues, the weight of two legs coming up in space can be a bit of a load for your lower back. It can feel a bit much for some people. And if you've got any, like, if you've had some abdominal surgery or do you even kind of have a little caution, if anyone has got any, like pelvic floor instability and stuff. I know you do a lot of core warm ups in your class.

Freya Bennett-Overstall: Yeah. So interestingly, when I was first introduced to the feet up trainer, I was very weak, both in my arms and my core and my legs. And it was almost like a rehabilitary tool for me. So it was, I certainly didn't go straight upside down with legs up in the air because some people do want.

Jo Stewart: To, like, kick themselves up there.

Freya Bennett-Overstall: Yeah. And they expect that that's just what they're going to do. And we will always start slowly. So with little, with playing with the trainer and doing the little kicks into the chest rather than you expecting to take your legs straight up, straight away. And it is really important, I think, to make sure you're building up your core strength before you go upside down, because otherwise, if you are upside down and you're wobbling all over the place and then you're putting extra when you're wobbling all over the place and you're not strong enough in your core, you're then recruiting your neck and your shoulders more and tensing them up even further and then that can add to injury. So there's a few things to be aware of when you go in. But when it comes to pelvic floor, back to that question I've seen through class, because we will do pelvic floor exercises during class. That will build in strength in a lot of people as well. But definitely, if you just had surgery, I'd be waiting. Your doctor's okay and get the all clear from the surgeon.

Jo Stewart: And maybe this isn't the first exercise and movement you come back to. Yeah, just from hearing the things that you're saying as well. And just when it comes to pelvic floor and core strength, for a lot of people, the symptoms of an underactive and an overactive pelvic floor are really similar. So there could be people whose pelvic floor is already too tight and holding on a lot. And I can see how just that kind of strength to hold yourself in that upside down straight line, it is like, and it's an engagement pose. Like, it's quite a yang pose. Like, you're working to be in that position and flowing on from there. Like, what do you do in the rest of the session to make sure that we're getting the, like, message to that part of the body, that it's okay to relax, it's okay to soften and, like, the counter action to that energy and that strength to lift up and pull in.

Freya Bennett-Overstall: There's a lot of. One is that you, first of all, when you're first going upside down, you can't expect to be upside down for a long period of time. You really have to slowly work your way up. And some of the signs of people going and playing and going upside down for too long, you can get little petechiae, little capillary breakages on the face. That can be a sign that someone's been playing upside down too long, and their heart and their body and their blood system hasn't got used to it yet. But back to the pelvic floor, you're absolutely right. And I think women of my age are becoming more aware of it, too, is there's the two sides of the spectrum. You either have the pelvic floor that's too weak or the pelvic floor that's too active. And so when we're doing our warm ups with the feet up trainer, there's lots of cat cow type motions on the trainer, and it's learning to tune into the pelvic floor. So relaxing as you breathe in and contracting as you breathe out. And we take that to, when we go upside down as well. And we're also learning to engage the locks. So we were talking about the different bandit bandhas. So the root lock down near the pelvic floor, the diaphragmatic lock and the throat lock, we explore a lot of that in our classes, too, and get people to really be able to tune into those parts of their body so that when they are upside before going upside down. So when you are upside down, you can go, right, just do a little cheque in. How's that going? How's that going? And then when you get used to being upside down for a while, once your proprioception kicks in, you actually don't need as much effort as when you first start, if that makes sense. Yes.

Jo Stewart: I 100% notice that in my body, and it can be a good pelvic floor cheque in no matter what you're doing. Like, am I still able to breathe easily?

Freya Bennett-Overstall: Yeah. Yeah.

Jo Stewart: Cause if you're holding your breath, you're probably holding everything.

Freya Bennett-Overstall: Yes. And we do a little. So, as I shared with you guys earlier today, the gift. So that pose where you can really tune in, relax through your shoulders, your neck, your shoulders, and then we take our attention to pelvic floor and digestion and see if you can allow gravity to just relax and lift through that area as well, which is really powerful. That's a favourite in class that a lot of people.

Rane Bowen: Yeah, I really enjoy that. And I mentioned this before, just, you know, you feel like you're softening through the shoulders, you're letting the shoulders release, and then you just find more and more layers and you're like, wow. Is that how much tension I had there? Is this how much I've been holding them up towards my ears? Yeah, it's amazing.

Freya Bennett-Overstall: Yeah. Even though I've been. I think it was 2019, I first got my first feet up trainer. I still have to remind myself every time I practise, relax your shoulders, Freya. Relax your shoulders.

Jo Stewart: And I think that's actually one of the gifts of inversion. Practise. Whatever postural habit you have in your everyday life upside down is going to really show you that and emphasise it and you'll usually, like, be able to work on it in a different way.

Freya Bennett-Overstall: Yeah. Shift that perspective.

Jo Stewart: Yeah. Like, with handstands, especially, like. And that's just for me, it's with a wall or with another person helping. Like, I've got a back that likes to back bend quite naturally. And so that is the enemy of a, like, solid handstand. So all of the. All the things I was doing to try and balance my handstand better was like, oh, actually, this is just really helpful for my posture in general.

Freya Bennett-Overstall: Yeah.

Jo Stewart: Oh, and that actually brings me to something else as well, especially when it relates to shoulders, because our shoulders in our body are not necessarily designed to be a weight bearing joint, not like our hips. So we can be upside down for a while. But even people who, like, say, circus performers who are on their hands a lot, we do have to be extra careful with our shoulders because we're asking them to do something that they're not necessarily designed for. Do you want to take us into a little bit of that or very.

Freya Bennett-Overstall: Different joint to the hip joint, which is used to holding all that weight all the time? And anatomically, there's so much variation with the shoulder as well. There'll be some people who just can't do a shoulder stand. It doesn't. Anatomically, they just don't have that.

Jo Stewart: Their bones just aren't shaped like that.

Freya Bennett-Overstall: Yeah, yeah. And so I do feel like the feet up trainer then makes it a bit more accessible for people who couldn't otherwise do that. I felt like it definitely did for me anyway, but, yeah, the shoulder joint is much more prone to dislocation, so you need to be really careful. Yeah.

Jo Stewart: And some of the corrective in inverted possin, inverted commas prop support that I've experienced in some anger classes to try and like, strap people's shoulders into a certain position or like, sometimes it's taking the pressure off, like, say a stack of bolt, stack of blankets underneath your shoulders so that you do have a bit more freedom for your neck. But, yeah, definitely like wrapping people's upper arms in straps and then, like, some.

Freya Bennett-Overstall: People locking them in, some can't do it.

Jo Stewart: Yeah, yeah, some people shoulder bones just aren't shaped like that.

Freya Bennett-Overstall: Yes. Yeah. It is very interesting when you start looking at comparing skeletons of, you know, different shoulders of, particularly with Joffi's training and looking at bones and, yeah, there's so much anatomical variation and then it makes you realise, oh, that's why some people just cannot do that pose. It's not that they're not trying or that they haven't been practising or they haven't stretched enough. Yeah, they just physically can't do it and they'll never be able to do it unless you injure them. Yeah.

Jo Stewart: And I would also say that that is true for some people's necks. Some people's necks are not going to be safe in a headstand or a shoulder stand just because of their vertebrae. And a lot of disc injuries are asymptomatic. So you might have a disc issue in your neck that you're not aware of and putting your full body weight on that area might make you aware of it.

Freya Bennett-Overstall: Yeah, yeah. Unfortunately. Yeah. I've had one student who had. Who has had surgery on her neck, so cervical surgery, and it just wasn't suitable for her to come in and use. We tried very gently, but agreed that, yeah, maybe this isn't the best option, but I've had lots of other people who've had cervical disc problems. So that's when, you know, in the neck, you get a little disc protrusion between your vertebrae and it's actually been really therapeutic and really beneficial.

Jo Stewart: Especially those types of inversions that we're talking about where your head isn't touching the ground.

Freya Bennett-Overstall: Yes, that's the type I'm talking about in the hammock or using the feet up trainer. Yeah, yeah.

Jo Stewart: And so we've touched a little bit on some of the emotional aspects of going upside down, like the empowering aspect. Another thing that I notice in myself is it, like, literally flips your perspective on the world upside down. Like, you see things in a different way. And the other thing I notice, especially in the types of inversions, like a handstand or somewhere where there's a lot of active balance involved. If you have trouble focusing, you will focus there.

Freya Bennett-Overstall: Yeah. You have to, don't you? You just have to focus. Yeah.

Jo Stewart: And sometimes there'll be this moment where it just feels like everything in the universe has aligned. And I think that feeling can be addictive. There's lots of people who are very obsessed with hands and I wonder if that's one of the reasons you get the high.

Freya Bennett-Overstall: Don't you mean post inversion high? Yeah.

Jo Stewart: Are there any other emotional aspects that you notice come up for people or for yourself?

Freya Bennett-Overstall: Well, there's always fear for beginners when they come in. Yeah. And just trying to help everyone allay that fear and it's okay, and we're gonna do everything safely, but regardless, there's always fear.

Jo Stewart: And I guess the flip side of that is ego, where people, like, want to charge in. And even if you've maybe cautioned them that maybe they're not quite ready for that, they just want to, like, push through. Yup.

Freya Bennett-Overstall: And so hence why we do a lot of deep belly breathing, to just get that parasympathetic nervous system on board as well, and lead the ego out.

Jo Stewart: The studio door and maybe kind of cultivating an atmosphere in class that's not necessarily goals based. Like, it's not about mastering a particular pose or getting into a particular pose. It's more about tuning into what your body needs today.

Freya Bennett-Overstall: And I'm always going on about it being playful. It's not about achieving or, you know, getting the perfect upside down position. It's more about just bringing that little kid out to play and let's have some fun. You know how we used to see kids do handstands and cartwheels and it's all fun and play?

Jo Stewart: I think that's, like, a massive benefit because, especially as adults, we don't get a lot of. We don't. You know, you have to, like, find opportunities to play, but also you don't necessarily get that many opportunities to learn fun new skills in a playful way.

Freya Bennett-Overstall: Yeah, yeah. Everything gets a little bit serious.

Jo Stewart: Yeah, yeah. And often in a regular yoga class, change happens very gradually.

Freya Bennett-Overstall: Yeah.

Jo Stewart: But there's particular moves, especially in the aerial hammock. Like, there's no way I can do a backflip from the ground, but, like, in the hammock, that's accessible to a lot more people.

Freya Bennett-Overstall: Yeah, yeah. And then that inner child comes out, they're like, yippee.

Jo Stewart: Oh, yes. And that actually brings me to another of the physiological benefits of working with the vestibular system, because we get these chances to. It's like going upside down. Spinning movements, balance movements and random movements all tend to be, like, stimulating. And if you are of the vestibula seeking person, you might be craving that and not even realising it. So it gives us this scope to work with our vestibular system in a way that helps us find balance.

Freya Bennett-Overstall: Yeah.

Jo Stewart: And also, if we're talking about the aerial hammock, we can do gentle forward and back swinging movements, and that tends to be a soothing vestibular system movement for most people.

Freya Bennett-Overstall: I do, actually. I don't teach in the afternoons, my classes, for one of the. But it is just so stimulating and so energising, because then people can end up not getting to sleep that night. Whereas I feel like the hammock is more. You've got that more soothing kind of experience. It's not quite so yang, is it? I mean, some of the poses were definitely yang. The vampire was definitely yang. I love that.

Jo Stewart: And I pretty much mainly do evenings and afternoons because that's my energy time of the day.

Freya Bennett-Overstall: Yeah.

Jo Stewart: Like, it takes me a long, long time to get moving in the morning, so.

Freya Bennett-Overstall: Yeah, yeah, yeah.

Rane Bowen: I just think. And we, as a little service during Shavasana in the hammock, we offer people a little swing if they like. And most people do enjoy that.

Jo Stewart: Yeah. We ask if they want to be swing or still. Yeah. So we were having a little talk about the vestibular system before, because vertigo is one of the reasons why people might not be comfortable going upside down and maybe not even comfortable in the movement of the hammock as well.

Freya Bennett-Overstall: And can be a contraindication for people.

Jo Stewart: Yes. It can make it worse.

Freya Bennett-Overstall: Yeah, definitely. And we were talking about benign paroxysmal positional vertigo, which some people can get where the little crystals in the inner ears can be misplaced. So it's not even going upside down. It can be rolling from one side of the bed to the other will just completely. They'll be completely lost in space and feel really uncomfortable. So I definitely wouldn't be advising any inversions with a feed up trainer or a hammock for those people. But also, we were talking about, as well, if someone has a virus that can sometimes trigger off vertigo and balance issues.

Jo Stewart: This happened to me. I actually had to leave a class, like, it was a class at home to throw up because I was just, like. It came on really suddenly and I kind of had this vertigo thing for, like, about a week, and it was long enough to me to be a bit like, is this my life now? Like, am I going to be able to do my job? Which is going upside down? It kind of felt like I was really drunk all the time. Yeah.

Rane Bowen: Right now I've had an inner ear infection and it's just horrible.

Jo Stewart: Yeah.

Rane Bowen: You can't even walk in a straight line.

Jo Stewart: And I have had someone who came to class and they were surprised because they've done aerial yoga before. And after my class, they were like, I felt really sick. And then they message me a week later to be like, oh, it turns out the flu was coming and I had the flu. So. Yeah, yeah, so definitely, like, if something is feeling different, like, listen to that feeling, because there could be something. Something up with your body and also, like, what you're saying with those inner ear crystals, if that's happening for you, like you're saying chiropractors. And I know physiotherapists can kind of do a, like a physical adjust. Yeah, yeah.

Freya Bennett-Overstall: But it usually needs to be done quite a few times. It's not, unfortunately, a one once off scenario, and you're set. The other thing that can happen is going upside down can trigger a hot flush for some people. So that's just something to you know, caution people about. But it's not. It's not going to exacerbate hot flushes in general. It's just going to.

Jo Stewart: You won't necessarily get them more frequently, but you might get one. Yeah.

Freya Bennett-Overstall: During the class.

Jo Stewart: And I find a hot day is one of the factors that make me want to not be upside down for as long and need a bit more recovery time.

Freya Bennett-Overstall: Absolutely. Because all your blood vessels are already so much more dilated. That's a really good one to.

Jo Stewart: And the other one for me is if I've had a, like, bad night's sleep the night before, I also probably don't want to be upside down as long.

Freya Bennett-Overstall: Yeah, I know for me, it's different for every woman, but if I'm on my first day or second day of my bleed, I don't really want to be upside down much, too, because I tend to have quite heavy first day or second day. But then I know other people who are absolutely fine and don't mind. Same with pregnancy. I've known women who will be upside down throughout their entire pregnancy and they have no problems whatsoever, whereas other women that will bring on, you know, vomiting or. It's so individual for the person, just. It's a good reminder that everyone actually, if they tune into their body, knows themselves much better than anyone else. So if your teacher's saying, do this and it doesn't feel right, please don't do it.

Jo Stewart: And there are a couple of other contraindications for anyone who is pregnant that are about increasing intra abdominal pressure. So if we're doing a move where, say, we're lifting up both legs at the same time, that can just make more pressure.

Freya Bennett-Overstall: Absolutely.

Jo Stewart: In your belly. So if you are already prone to rectus diastasis, to that separation of the abdominal muscles, that you might feel them pulling more apart doing those types of movements, and I would say, well, you're talking about different bodies. Like, if you've already done a lot of that, if you're a circus performer or a yoga teacher and your body can go upside down without you feeling like you have to really grip your core a lot, then, you know, you will do what's right for your body. I think there's a bit of a falls risk that comes into it as well. I've heard people who were.

Freya Bennett-Overstall: Because your centre of gravity changes and.

Jo Stewart: If you were to fall, it would be much worse because you might land on the baby.

Freya Bennett-Overstall: Yes. Yeah. Just from a personal experience. I actually couldn't practise yoga while I was pregnant because I just became so hypermobile that I was just like this rubber band person. And that's when pilates really was incredible. So, so helpful all through both my pregnancies.

Jo Stewart: And maybe the reverse would be true as well. Like maybe if you were someone who already had quite tight pelvic floor muscles doing these types of practises that are about pulling everything up, keeping everything strong and straight might not be that helpful if maybe what your. If your body's doing a lot of that already, like maybe shifting to something that is a bit more passive and a bit more relaxing. Yeah, it's not my area of expertise. Like, I actually have pregnancy on our contraindication list for our aerial yoga classes. So the way I normally do it is if someone is a regular and they become pregnant, then we'll go into doing different options and more and more encouraging people away from going upside down and into the more supported options and into the options that are more about building strength in your legs and your glutes and your upper body. Because when you're like carrying a baby and carrying all the baby's stuff, like, that's a lot of upper body strength.

Freya Bennett-Overstall: Yep. A lot of repetitive strain injuries going on there once the babies arrive. Yes.

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Jo Stewart: And so I guess we should go a little bit more, because you mentioned for you, the first day of bleeding, you don't feel like going upstairs upside down at all. It's not an issue for me. I feel, like, totally fine with it. My body's pretty used to it. And also, I don't have a particularly heavy lead. I've had people who come from ayurveda or just more traditional yoga teachers who choose not to do it at all for energetic reasons. Should we get into a little bit of the yogic physiology aspects of what's happening in your body and why that might be guiding people's perspectives?

Freya Bennett-Overstall: Yeah, sure.

Jo Stewart: I mean, I can if you want. If I've just put you on the spot.

Freya Bennett-Overstall: I was just thinking, I know from an ayurvedic perspective, inversions are supposed to be so energising, but it's a longevity practise. That's considered a longevity practise, but, yeah. Not during menstruation.

Jo Stewart: Yeah. So my understanding, which is not super detailed, is that's a time when Apanavayu, the energy system in your body that's about taking stuff down and out, is active. So if your body is trying to send stuff down and out, why would you reverse the direction of that energetic flow? Because normally, if you want to stimulate stuff like digestion, that's when you might turn yourself upside down so that you can kind of get that Jathari Agnee, that digestive fire going a bit more. And so, yeah, traditionally, the menstruation time is time. That's not necessarily about the stimulating, active, energising stuff. It's more just about letting your body do its thing and kind of giving yourself a little bit more time to rest.

Freya Bennett-Overstall: Yeah.

Jo Stewart: With that.

Freya Bennett-Overstall: I mean, this is very generalised statement, but most women feel like that's what they need on the first couple of days. They just need to rest and not. They can't always rest. No, but that is ideally, if possible, if they can rest more than normal on those first couple of days, then go for it.

Jo Stewart: Yeah. The flip side of that is like, I don't necessarily. I feel like the week before my period, I feel much lower energy than when I've actually got it. And I still need to do my job, which is, you know, demonstrating how to go upside down so people can do that safely. And sometimes with that emotional stuff, sometimes you need the nurturing and the soothing, or sometimes you might just be really cranky and you need something that's going to, like, shift that energy. And I feel like the upside down can kind of be quite helpful as a bit of a reset with that. Yes.

Freya Bennett-Overstall: That's also lots of liver, isn't it? We need to nourish liver during that time. There's a point on the feet that we use in class that we nicknamed the cranky, irritable relieving spot, which is liver three. When you're looking at acuity acupuncture, which is just between the big toe and the second toe, if you kind of draw your finger up from the big and the second toe to where almost those tendons join, you can give that point a little massage and relieve the cranky irritableness that's going on.

Jo Stewart: Like, you can't change your job, you can't change the traffic, but you can, like, massage a spot on your foot.

Freya Bennett-Overstall: Maybe not in the traffic jam, but.

Rane Bowen: If it's not moving.

Jo Stewart: Keep 1ft off break, massage the other side. I'll say, as well, I think a lot of more traditional yoga training may not necessarily be based on a up to date understanding of how women's bodies work. Because what moves menstrual blood out of the body is not gravity. It's like smooth muscle contractions. And that's why women can go in space and be astronauts and still have their periods and lie in bed and still have your period. And, like, say, when you get up in the morning and stand up, you know, gravity might take an effect then, but you are not going to send that blood back in the wrong direction if you go upside down, because it's not gravity that's bringing out, it's that smooth muscle contraction.

Freya Bennett-Overstall: Yep, good point, Joe.

Jo Stewart: It's not going to give you endometriosis if you go upside down when you have your period, but if you do have endometriosis, you might not feel like going upside down at that time anyway. That might not be a day when you're coming to class, it might be a day when you're having a very nurturing home practise situation.

Freya Bennett-Overstall: Yeah. A wheat pack, a little belly massage, some herbal teas.

Jo Stewart: More.

Freya Bennett-Overstall: Some people need more than that.

Jo Stewart: Yeah.

Freya Bennett-Overstall: Horrible.

Jo Stewart: Yeah, absolutely.

Freya Bennett-Overstall: Yeah.

Jo Stewart: And also flowing into everything that we've been talking about. Do everything that you need to do to help your body through hard things. It's okay to take painkillers, it's okay to get. It's help. Yeah, get help. It's not because you're not doing enough yoga.

Freya Bennett-Overstall: Yeah, absolutely.

Jo Stewart: It might help, but, you know, women are way underserved by both modern medicine and also some traditional practises. So all the resources.

Freya Bennett-Overstall: Part of that is historically, I know from a western medicine perspective, is historically, most of the studies are done on men.

Jo Stewart: Yes. Because those hormones mess up the results.

Freya Bennett-Overstall: So it's all still coming to fruition.

Jo Stewart: I saw one reference that it was like, I think about 80% of studies were done on men or male mice.

Freya Bennett-Overstall: Ah, so. And that's why that medication seemed to do a different thing when you took it.

Jo Stewart: Yes. If the study is done on men and then it's applied to women, it's why women get a lot more bad side effects from a lot of medications.

Freya Bennett-Overstall: And at the end of the day, we're all different. There's never going to be one drug that is reacting exactly the same in every human person, just like there's never going to be one yoga pose that is exactly the same for every single person. Just weird. Yeah.

Jo Stewart: So we've talked a little bit about the ayurvedic understanding of the body. I know that traditional chinese medicine is something that you definitely know more about than me. Looking from a TCM perspective, is there like another load or inversions that.

Freya Bennett-Overstall: It's interesting because you asked that earlier, and I was thinking about it, and from my studies so far, I'm not aware of how they discuss inversions as such. But the Taiji pole is a central conduit of energy. So in ancient Taoism, basically from the crown of the head to the perineum, you have, and depending on how you hold your posture as well, you will be facilitating energy flow. So the idea, for example, behind qigong and that, you know, Tai Chi type movements is that you are that a human body is a conduit of energy between heaven and earth. And so if I was thinking about it while I was thinking, well, it doesn't really matter if you're upside down or not, as long as you've got the correct posture. And they talk about there's a point on the perineum, which is basically your gate of life and death, and then there's a point on the crown of the head, which is also allowing energy through. So as long as you have your body in the correct alignment, that allows energy flow. I'm not quite sure if it makes a difference if it's upside down or not.

Jo Stewart: And it's interesting because, like, I don't know that much about Tai Chi and qigong, but there aren't actually that many inverted postures. Like, it's all standing. Right.

Freya Bennett-Overstall: You can do postures seated, and if someone's really unwell, there's certain meditations and certain practises you can do lying down, but then that's considered that you're not such a strong conduit of energy, interestingly enough, because you want that upright posture to help facilitate that. Yeah.

Jo Stewart: And so we've spent a bit of time talking about the more active inversions. Let's get into some of the more passive and restorative ones, because that sounds like the kind of thing that you need if you are unwell or also if you just need to chill.

Freya Bennett-Overstall: So there's a beautiful one we use with the trainer where it's called feet up shivasana, where you are lying. So your torso is on the floor, but then your feet are up, resting on the cushion of the trainer. So it would be similar. You could use a chair for that. Or your couch. Or your couch, exactly. You don't need a feed up trainer for that, but that's just a really beautiful, gentle restorative inversion.

Jo Stewart: And there's some that you can do with the aerial hammock as well, where you hang it pretty low to the ground. So I go around ankle height and you could scoop your legs and your bottom into the fabric. So it's almost like a supported seti bandhasana, where your legs are long, but your shoulders and your head and your arms are resting on the floor. The nice thing about doing this in the hammock rather than on bolsters is then you can gently sway your legs from side to side. And I didn't know, I couldn't remember the name that I was taught this pose, so I put it to the Internet. And waterfall pose is what some people's school called it. From there, you can also take your legs up the fabric and then it becomes a little bit more like a legs up the wall kind of position. If you had the bolster underneath your feet or underneath your hips, and then your legs on the wall, you can also wrap your legs around the fabric. And I really love this one because it makes the inversion shape when it's up higher a lot more accessible. So you can build muscle memory. When you're low to the ground with your hips held by the fabric and then wrapping your legs around, because it takes a bit of strength and a bit of momentum to sweep your legs around, you can do it one leg at a time from the floor, which is nice, and then you can still give your hips a little side to side swivel.

Freya Bennett-Overstall: I'm visualising you like a mermaid.

Jo Stewart: That's how I feel. Yeah. There's so much side to side flow in the hammock. Many of the contraindications, like, it depends on the person, obviously, but, like, say, if there's a blood pressure, was something that we didn't mention. So both high and low blood pressure, because your heart is only just a little bit below your hips and often your legs aren't that much elevated. A lot of people are fine with that shape. Depends on the person with the fear factor. Because most of your body is on the ground, it's a mess. Yeah. And maybe once you've done it a few times and your legs are pretty comfy with that wraparound, it's a good building block to maybe take that up higher if you want. You can't really step it up. It's either like. Yeah, it's low or high, because what happens if you start to tap it up more? Then your neck just has to bend a lot. Yeah. So she gets a bit unsafe. Yeah. Can you think of any others throwing?

Rane Bowen: Oh, not off the top of my head.

Freya Bennett-Overstall: I usually saying that you don't do so many twists in the hammock because we were. There's just not as much doing the twist scope.

Jo Stewart: There's a couple and that usually for.

Rane Bowen: More of a standing position as well.

Freya Bennett-Overstall: Yeah.

Jo Stewart: You can do all the standing poses, so you can add a twist to that, like a kind of paravuti trikonasana or, you know, like a twisting lunge type situation.

Rane Bowen: Or you can lie on your back and then sort of roll your knees over to one side.

Freya Bennett-Overstall: Oh, yeah.

Jo Stewart: You can have the fabric on your feet and then scoop your knees over to one side as well. Yeah, yeah.

Freya Bennett-Overstall: Oh, and what was the one you just showed me? The final one that was. That was twisty, where we.

Jo Stewart: Chandelier. Yes. So that's almost like a royal pigeon pose. Upside down.

Freya Bennett-Overstall: Yeah.

Jo Stewart: The fabric's wrapped around your hips. You start up with something like baddha konasana legs with the feet together and you can see your feet in front of the fabric and you can see a band of fabric on each inner thigh. Then if you take one leg wide and around and back behind. It ends up being in a bit of an extension for that hip and you might find your foot reaching back behind, or you might just work on pressing that leg down to help counterbalance the weight of your upper body as you're upside down, and also to give you that more satisfying quad and hip flexor stretch.

Freya Bennett-Overstall: Yeah, that felt really good.

Jo Stewart: And I didn't do it today, but that could become more like a bow pose with both legs coming back behind from there. That's getting to the one of those ones where if your body is a lot heavier than your legs, you'll either have to really actively press your legs down or keep hold with your hands.

Freya Bennett-Overstall: Because you might counterbalance too much.

Jo Stewart: Yeah, yeah, yeah, got it. And so the other, I guess another difference between the more yang, the more active inversions where you're working to hold yourself up, versus the more yin, more passive inversions where you've got support of props or the feet up trainer or the hammock is you can hang out a lot longer.

Freya Bennett-Overstall: Absolutely.

Jo Stewart: In the passive ones. And that means we get the benefits of our baroreceptor reflex response. So because our heart doesn't have to work as hard to pump blood up to the brain, we might feel our nervous system slowing down, our breathing slowing down, a sense of, like, body relaxation kicking in.

Freya Bennett-Overstall: Vagus nerve.

Jo Stewart: Yeah, yeah. Do you want to go into the vagus nerve a bit more?

Freya Bennett-Overstall: I'm just trying to think about how I was. Now you've taken me down a spiral thinking about what's going on with the vagus nerve when we're upside down in the hammock versus the feet up trainer. Because I feel like when we were playing with the hammock before, there's so much more fluidity and it's almost like you get a bit of a massage while you're in the hammock, which is very. The vagus nerve loves a good massage. So I feel like you would be really stimulating the vagus nerve every time that you were using the hammock.

Jo Stewart: The other thing that we're doing in most inverted shapes, because the angle of our lungs has changed, we have our internal organs and our diaphragm to breathe into in a different way versus when we're standing. So I think it can be quite a strengthening position for the respiratory system because you do have to actively breathe.

Freya Bennett-Overstall: Yes.

Jo Stewart: A bit more.

Freya Bennett-Overstall: When it's a more yang inversion, you mean?

Jo Stewart: Yeah, or even a more yin one where, like, say, legs up the wall, not when your back is flat. But when you're like a seti bandhasana situation.

Freya Bennett-Overstall: Yes.

Jo Stewart: Yeah, yeah. So I think over time, you can cultivate a deep breath, but if someone is already a little bit restricted in their breathing, that extra change of going upside down and it being a bit more effort to breathe can, like, it can be a little bit of a panicky feeling and, like, you might feel like you aren't able to breathe easily. Like, that's the caution side of it.

Freya Bennett-Overstall: But also, have you experienced that in class with anyone?

Jo Stewart: I definitely have experienced people who've come into a bit of a panic kind of feeling when they've gone upside down. And I normally don't talk too much about breath. For people who have anxiety connected to their breath and people who I know have a PTSD history, like, I find that bringing more attention to the breath is normally the wrong direction. Like, it normally just, like, heightens that response and they're more aware of not being able to breathe easily. So what I try and focus on instead is finding a position where it naturally feels like they have more space for breath. Maybe it's bringing the arms wide, maybe it's just focusing on the movement of the arms or the rest of the body and letting the breath take care of itself.

Freya Bennett-Overstall: Yeah. Right.

Jo Stewart: So to speak. And also just if it was like a one on one situation and it felt like they were tensing up, they were having more trouble breathing, kind of working together to feel like, okay, if that's how you feel in this shape, is there another body position that feels like it makes more space for breath? Yeah. And sometimes, like a bit of a self hug kind of position, even though it's a bit more restricted through the front of the body or like hugging a bolster. Yeah, it makes a bit more space through the back of the body. And if you're thinking breath awareness, you could think of breathing into the bolster and that can give you, like, a different type of feedback. But if someone's having struggles with breathing, I normally don't focus on the breathing. I normally focus on the other stuff that feels like is working for them and cheque back in with the breath.

Freya Bennett-Overstall: I haven't had anyone had any breathing issues in a feed up class.

Jo Stewart: Yeah, yeah, yeah. Something else that's happened.

Freya Bennett-Overstall: There's definitely fear of trying something new or going upside down or particularly we were playing earlier today where you can drop backwards. You know, whenever something's going backwards, there's always that, oh, can I go backwards? I don't know if I can go backwards.

Rane Bowen: I might have just watched that one.

Jo Stewart: The other thing that's happened to me, which has been really interesting, and it's changed the way that I teach. I've had people who've gone down into the inversion, they've stayed for a while, like, a long time, and then it's like something in their mind, like a switch flicks and they start to panic.

Freya Bennett-Overstall: In the inversion?

Jo Stewart: In the inversion. So what I do now and then, like, they don't want to. They want to push hard on the ground, which makes you less safe in the hammock because you might slide around in the fabric. So what I always practise now, first, with people having had a couple of people who've had that moment, and it's been quite challenging to get them to, like, take their hands off the ground and reach up and find the hammock, is to always practise the exit right at the beginning. Okay, so you've got your legs wrapped. You start lowering down before you let go with your hands. Practise pulling yourself back up and I will make eye contact with the person and say, so, like, do you feel like you know how to get out when you need to? Yeah, because sometimes you can demo something and it just doesn't sink in. Like, I want to know that they do feel like that information is there for them when they need to. And sometimes I make people come out before they feel like it's their maximum amount of time, because you need more energy for the exit. So. Yeah.

Freya Bennett-Overstall: And we were talking about the gift pose and sharing that earlier. That's always a pose. I say if at any stage you feel wobbly or just not right when you're upside down, you come into the gift, relax into the gift and then gently come out. And it's always a slow, slow coming out of an inversion. Don't jump up quickly and then pass out on the floor. We don't want any of that happening.

Jo Stewart: Oh, yeah. That's a contraindication that we didn't mention. Like that quick change of blood pressure from being upside down to being right way up. You can faint.

Freya Bennett-Overstall: Yes, definitely. So I always advise. And when. Before we've even started going upside down on the trainer, we're just creating a gentle body memory. Even if you're just sitting on the ground in, say, butterfly pose and you had your head down, it's just gently coming back up. Full inhalation and exhalation. No quick movements anywhere. I have had a couple, maybe one person who was maybe a bit disconnected from their body but realised oh, hang on. I'm upside down and I think I need to come out and just, like, quickly. Come out and go, oh, like, remember, we've just got to come out really slowly. And the other pose in that scenario is child's pose. So you could do a child's pose once you come out and instead of coming all the way back up to a seated position with head up, just to come down into that child's pose. Pose and give yourself a chance to recalibrate and, you know, your heart and your head to catch up with each other.

Jo Stewart: And it's good as well to. Like, with the aerial hammock, we've got some restorative height poses that are like mini versions of the full poses. And even in floor based yoga, like, there's downward facing dog, there's uttanasana, there are a lot of other inverted postures where your feet are still on the floor and your heart is above the level of your head, but not as much. So they are good cheque in poses to see how your system is responding.

Freya Bennett-Overstall: To the inversions and even starting poses, like when you're first getting used to. They're kind of the earlier inversions, aren't they?

Jo Stewart: Yeah. And they're good places to build your strength as well as your proprioceptive awareness.

Freya Bennett-Overstall: Yeah.

Jo Stewart: And I think it's one of those very individual things where practise your body will potentially become more comfortable in these shapes. But everyone has their own comfort time upside down and trying to stay longer is not always productive. Like, it's going to change day to day.

Freya Bennett-Overstall: Absolutely changes day to day.

Jo Stewart: And I don't think you'd necessarily get more benefits staying longer.

Freya Bennett-Overstall: It's interesting because each term, so I only teach during school term, and each time we come back, I'm like, okay, we're just easing back in, but don't expect to be where we were at the end of the term and stay upside down for as long. Unless you. Even if I've been away on holidays and I haven't taken my feet up trainer or I haven't been doing any inversions, I'll definitely just ease back in rather than expecting myself to go and stay upside down for five minutes or whatever I might have been doing earlier.

Jo Stewart: And I'm not sure if this is a factor with the feet up training because it's pretty cushioned, but with the aerial hammock, all the places where it touches you on your body, especially the poses where it's around your hip flexors, I find all of those spots get more sensitive if I'm away for like, two weeks, like, your nervous system stops registering it as a big deal when you do it a lot. But if I'm away, like, it all, I don't want to stay as long for that reason.

Freya Bennett-Overstall: Yeah.

Jo Stewart: As well. Yeah. And I don't know if this is science or just how my brain works, but if someone is having some discomfort in some of those poses, I always do small doses. I feel like if you stay for a really long time, if you make yourself stay for a really long time. Yeah. Your body registers it as a bad memory. And then, like, there's, you know, that trepidation, you're like, oh, this pose. Oh, that really hurt last time. So it's just like lots of little, small doses. You can come out anytime you need. And part of that is each time you try, maybe the fabric goes in a slightly different spot and it actually does feel more comfortable. And also your nervous system stops registering it as a threshold because it's very familiar and you get stronger on the inner, the entry and the exit. So you have more confidence and more control with both those things.

Rane Bowen: One thing I did want to mention about coming up quickly. I think in most poses in aerial yoga, it's actually quite hard to come up quickly because you've actually got to work except for flying down dog. And that's the only one I find I have to sort of tell people to slowly roll their way back up.

Jo Stewart: I know I've definitely got people who like, like, once they've got the hammock in their hands, they might like, kind of launch themselves back up pretty quickly from like a back belt or a booty wrap as well.

Freya Bennett-Overstall: Right? Yeah.

Jo Stewart: Now you can, like, make a swift exit from any foe. So good teaching in your classes that your people are doing that.

Rane Bowen: Oh, thank you.

Jo Stewart: I also want to talk a little bit. I think the feet up trainer, most of the poses you are working up against gravity. So it's more work to get up there. You're building strength on your way up and on the way down. I guess if you did it too quickly, you might like, stub your toe on the floor or have a, like, you know, unfortunate landing that way or just have the dizziness factor.

Freya Bennett-Overstall: You usually have to work on the way down, though.

Jo Stewart: You have to put the brakes on.

Freya Bennett-Overstall: Yeah, definitely. So you still activating core to come out? Yeah.

Jo Stewart: There are some aerial yoga poses that are like that. Like the shoulder stand one where the fabrics wrapped around your shoulders. There are some others where gravity is helping you on the way down, where the fabrics wrapped around your hips and you lower yourself down. So there can be a situation where you are not strong enough to exit yourself out, especially if you don't know the way.

Freya Bennett-Overstall: Yeah.

Jo Stewart: So that is a bit of a, like, challenge with the poses where you're in suspension, where you're feeling your spine lengthen, you always got to keep enough energy that exists to be able to get out, because it's maybe more work than the journey back in. And if you are teaching a class with your students, if you have someone in your class that you don't think you would be able to safely assist on the way back up, should you need to, I would just say, don't teach that pose. Like, if you have concerns about someone safely executing on their own, and if there's someone who's, like, a similar size to you or a bit bigger than you, you are putting yourself in a very dangerous position to try, because you might have to lift them back out. Like, if they really can't figure it out or they don't have the strength, then what are you going to do? You can't just leave them upside down, like, you know.

Freya Bennett-Overstall: No, definitely can't do that.

Jo Stewart: And so that's where you've got the building block poses, starting low, practising the exits from that, doing other similar poses where maybe it's a similar amount of strength, but not an inversion. So maybe, say, the fabrics around your shoulders and you can do some leg lifts and lowers from there, where you're working up and against gravity. So you can cheque for yourself, if you can, you know, lift and lower your legs in space with your own core strength. And sometimes, I've never really had to say this in a floor based yoga class, but you might actually have to say to someone in your class, I think we need to just stay with this foundation move before you try that other variation, even if other people are trying that variation, because, like, your safety and their safety is more of a factor when you're upside down than when you're on the ground.

Freya Bennett-Overstall: Yeah.

Jo Stewart: Are there any other teaching strategies for encouragement or helping people stay safe, or even just, like, clearly communicating complex poses that you tend to bring in?

Freya Bennett-Overstall: I always do tend to bring in, particularly with the feed up classes, is to channel the inner child, to bring that playful attitude in and not take things quite so seriously. But we always talk about safety in the beginning. I mean, that's just. That's so. That's like the foundation, isn't it?

Rane Bowen: Yeah. Yeah. I was going to ask, how do you. How do you sort of balance that sort of between play and safety? Because I have seen some people, they'll just sort of take it a lot further than you'd like them to and you have to sort of rein them in a little bit.

Freya Bennett-Overstall: Yeah. And that definitely happens where I'll just have to go over to the person go, okay. No, no. Well, maybe not. No, no. But okay, let's just bring that down and come back to the floor and let me just show you this and get people to have a bit of a break and maybe show something else or variations and not necessarily, what's the word? Highlight or. I would never call out names, but I would say, okay, let's all just come down for a moment and I'm just going to show you this option and this option and go through it again. And then I will go over to people and just help with small modifications as well. So I don't have a lot of people in the class as well for that reason. So I've got enough for eight people in a class, but it's rare that, well, my little studio will only fit six. Is that similar to you guys, the hammocks?

Jo Stewart: Yeah. When we first opened, we had eight and it felt like a lot. And then just through social distancing and I think that now we all, me and Ryan, feel like it as well. We just need more space around us to feel comfortable in the world that we live in today.

Freya Bennett-Overstall: Yeah, yeah, yeah. So similar.

Jo Stewart: It's funny you should say, you know, when you see something going wrong, the intuitive, like, thing that comes out of our mouth is like, not that, and I never say a name, but the person, it's always the person who's doing it, who knows that not that is for them, because, like, get your leg or your arm in the wrong place in the aerial havoc and, like, you know, you have to act really quickly to help keep people safe.

Freya Bennett-Overstall: Yes.

Jo Stewart: Something else that I find as part of my teaching strategy that I don't necessarily do as much in my floor classes is I really demonstrate a lot. And sometimes I demonstrate something from the front view and from the back view and then we go through it step by step together. And then I might say that if anyone needs me, I can, like, be right beside them and talk them through individually as well.

Freya Bennett-Overstall: Yeah, definitely. Because there's also, when you're upside down, like we said before, it's a completely different perspective.

Jo Stewart: Yeah. What am I?

Freya Bennett-Overstall: Where's my right leg? What's my left leg?

Jo Stewart: And I do try and avoid left and right. For that reason, actually. So I might try something else, like my up leg and my down leg.

Freya Bennett-Overstall: Yes. Yeah. Even that, people get confused.

Jo Stewart: Hang on.

Freya Bennett-Overstall: Which is up and which is down.

Jo Stewart: Yeah. Yeah. So even upside down is kind of sometimes confusing as well. Do you mean like forward to the front of the room or forward in the direction my face is facing, too?

Rane Bowen: Yeah, well, I've gotten in trouble for. So say you're in flying down dog, and I say reach back towards your foot, but because they're actually looking at.

Jo Stewart: It, it's forward towards your foot.

Rane Bowen: Reach forward towards your. Yeah, that's gone me a few times.

Freya Bennett-Overstall: Yeah.

Jo Stewart: Room landmarks are helpful because we have a blue wall, a wall with lots of fabric on it, garden on one side, and, like, jaws with jungle print wallpaper on the other side. So that kind of navigation can help, and it can be helped to bring people's, like, to give them those landmarks before we're doing anything else.

Freya Bennett-Overstall: Yes.

Jo Stewart: And floor and ceiling are kind of. That helps, too.

Freya Bennett-Overstall: And that's why I was showing you that, you know. Okay, this is the feet up knees. This is the feet up cross bar. This is the freed up feet. So then people kind of get an idea before they're playing on it. Give them some anchor points, directional points.

Jo Stewart: And also, if you are a teacher, like, take the pressure off yourself to have the perfect way to explain things, because it's never going to be the perfect way for everyone. Like, you know, you'll just probably need some multiple different approaches. And that's just how it goes. Like, it's not a failure in communication. It's just like, different brains, different bodies.

Freya Bennett-Overstall: And I've had some of my best little teaching cues come from students. They're like, you know, if we're in a group and someone is struggling with one particular thing, and someone will be.

Jo Stewart: Like, oh, this is like this, or this is like this.

Freya Bennett-Overstall: That's great.

Jo Stewart: Could I use that?

Freya Bennett-Overstall: Yep. And so we'll share that in class with other people.

Jo Stewart: That's really good as well, because that's a non hierarchical teaching style. We're learning from each other. It's not just me, the teacher, who knows everything.

Freya Bennett-Overstall: Yeah, absolutely.

Rane Bowen: Well, I guess to conclude this, I'm going to have to rephrase this question differently from how I normally do. But I guess if you could distil everything that you've learned and teach around inversions into one core essence, what do you feel that one thing would be?

Freya Bennett-Overstall: I think it would be shift in perspective. Nice. Yeah.

Jo Stewart: Thanks, guys. I'm going to answer this one as well. I think that turning things upside down emphasises everything. So, like, we were talking about the postural stuff, we were talking about the fear response, we were talking about that inner child thing. It's like it's already a little bit out of our comfort zone, so it just highlights different aspects of our bodies or how our minds might respond to different situations. And I think that yoga always does this. It has this ability to teach us about ourselves. But because there are not a lot of inverted postures for many of us beyond our yoga practise, it's like this moment within yoga that all of those gifts and all of those lessons are potentially amplified and all of those challenges as well.

Rane Bowen: Yeah, beautiful. I guess all I'll say is, I love inversions. That's about it. All right, well, thanks guys.

Freya Bennett-Overstall: Yeah, thanks so much. It's been great.

Rane Bowen: We really hope you enjoyed our conversation with Freya. If you like what we do, we'd love it if you could write us a quick review on Apple Podcasts or leave us some stars on Spotify. Spotify. This is a great way to help others find the podcast and show your support. We also love hearing from our listeners and finding out what you enjoy about the podcast. We also really appreciate it when you share our posts about each episode or leave us a comment online. You can find us at the Flow Artists podcast Facebook page or look for Rane loves yoga or Garden of Yoga on Instagram. We're a DIY operation and your community support really helps. Special thanks to our Patreon supporters. Your donations help us cover editing and hosting costs and we appreciate you so, so much. We'd like to express our gratitude to ghostsoul for granting us permission to use their track baby robots as our theme song. Be sure to check out Ghostsoul dot to discover more of their incredible music. Once again, thank you so, so much for spending your precious time with us. We appreciate you more than words can express. He Arohanui maua kia kotou katoa sending you big, big love.

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