A well rounded yoga practice has inversions in it. Quite a few actually! If you are a regular yoga practitioner, this is something you already know, have experienced, and probably pursue. Now, if yoga is a fairly new practice to you, this just might not be something you actually knew/realized.
So let’s talk about inversions…
WHAT EXACTLY IS AN INVERSION:
It is essentially any yoga pose where you put your head lower than your heart. And with that definition, there is quite an inventory of poses…Forward Fold, Downward Facing Dog, Humbled Warrior, Dolphin, Bridge, Crow… and I didn’t even get to Handstand yet. It can also mean that the legs are elevated above the head. Think Legs Up The Wall pose. Again, I haven’t mentioned that Hanstand yet. And then, if you hadn’t guessed it, it could be a pose that has both the head lower than the heart and the legs higher.
That’s a matter of categorizing…
Inversions can be classified as either mild or intense.
1. MILD: Poses that just/only have the head lower than the heart are considered mild. Think Forward Fold. Poses that have just the legs up above the head are also considered mild. Remember that Legs Up the Wall pose? Another great one is Happy Baby.
2. INTENSE: Poses that have BOTH the head lower than the heart AND the legs above everything are considered intense. Of course even within that, there are varying degrees of difficulty or intensity. Here is where, Inverted L, Shoulder-stand, Scorpion, Plow, Handstand, and Headstand fall. And even those inversion props such as the table or even Gaiam’s Shoulder-stand prop which help people place legs higher and head lower than the heart can be part of this category.
LETS TALK BENEFITS…
1. Gravity: Gravity eventually takes it’s toll on us. Things sag, Varicose veins pop up, hemorrhoids, lower extremities swell especially feet. Doesn’t sound good huh. — Going upside down helps to reverse that! It’s that simple.
2. Body Systems are Positively Influenced:
– You can and should do heart pumping activities to get the blood flowing all over the body. These are things like running, aerobics, swimming… Or you can invert to get the same benefit and this is still a great choice as you age. Wouldn’t hurt to do both the aerobic activity and include inversions in your practice. Next time you do a handstand, even if it is just donkey kicking your legs up and never staying, notice your heart rate.
– More blood flow to your head helps improve your complexion. Just make sure you do yoga with no makeup on.
– With regards to the lungs, daily activities of sitting and standing promotes blood to saturate the lower portion of our lungs which means we typically only fill the upper lung portion when we breath. The way to really use the lungs is to take nice full breaths or we can invert to help with that blood flow. Do both and your golden!
Think of the the Lymphatic system as sort of a sewage system for the body. It transports extra proteins, waste, toxins, and extra fluids and runs these through a filter thus eliminating through lymph nodes. Essentially, this system is a major player towards keeping our bodies healthy. However; lIke the cardiovascular system, it benefits with inversions. Inversions stimulate the system and as a result, it becomes stronger!
C. Nervous System:
Inversions benefit cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) and according to Yoga Journal, just hanging out in headstand causes pressure on top of the skull possibly promoting elasticity in one’s cranial bones which stimulates CSF creation. Benefits are said to include increased mental functioning, concentration, memory, and mental processing capabilities. An immediate thing I’ve noticed from being inverted in handstand or headstand (even with a prop) is that I feel energized right afterwards. No coffee needed. However; with other ones, such as Legs Up the Wall, I feel de-stressed, relaxed, and calmer. Notice how you feel when you pursue an inversion.
D. Endocrine System:
Inversions are believed to positively influence the hormone producing glands!
3. Balance – Inversions are considered balancing poses too. Think Eagle is hard! Wait till you attempt to master handstand.
4. Core – Inversions work the heck out of your core! See it isn’t all about sit-ups.
5. Confidence – When you can master an inversion especially one you have been working on, you will be beyond thrilled. I was so excited when I finally pulled off Scorpion for the first time. Now, I’m not scared of it.
6. Humble – Yep, inversions won’t be the easiest pose to tackle. Many will take a lot of prep and the build up just to lead up to being able to even get into an inversion. Because they aren’t easy, you’ll stay humbled which is definitely not a bad thing.
7. Another Perspective – Inversions reinforce the concept/analogy that there often is another or many other ways to view a situation.
8. Fun – Inversions are fun! Inversions positively affect our moods so when feeling down in the dumps, try an inversion. I also like to introduce inversions as a theme shortly after Daylight Savings Time when there are more hours of darkness to help counteract Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD).
So there you have, lots of great reasons to flip things upside down!
(If you have medical issues like High BP, Glaucoma…inversions maybe contraindicated. Check out the blog I wrote earlier back in September 2013 concerning High BP).
See Ya on the Flip Side,