That's strange i always found lowering into the movement to be easier than pulling up to it. I never attained the full lever, but this was true of all the other variations for me.
Another real good lever exercise is the one where you go from L-hang, pull to lever, pull to inverted hang, down to lever, down to L-hang- pause for a second or two at each poisition. Try to do 3-5 reps. Scale appropriately.