The Benefits of Inversions

Benefits of Inversion                                                                Jen Rogers

October 18, 2014                                                                                                                 Karma Yoga-Teacher Training

 

Inversions have the power to elicit a range of emotions from students—bewilderment, fear, anxiety, aversion, rejection, excitement, butterflies…you fill in the blank. Purposely turning ourselves upside down is contrary to our human physical nature and yet the benefits are many.  Yoga gently encourages us to move away from our unconscious habitual patterns, inversion is simply another way to shake us up…and wake us up.

An inversion is most generally categorized as any asana in which the head is below the heart. While headstand, handstand, forearm stand, and shoulder stand are the obvious asana’s, there are gentler options for students early on in their inversion relationship. For example, Down dog, standing forward folds, legs up the wall, and happy baby are great ways in which to get things moving in new directions without jumping in the deep end.

Highlighted Benefits of Inversions (from: http://yoganonymous.com)

Inversions reverse the blood flow in the body and improve circulation: Work smarter, not harder! Use gravity to provide the brain with more oxygen and blood thus increasing mental functioning, and improving concentration, memory, and processing abilities.

Increase immunity and prevent illness: The lymphatic system is a key player in keeping the body healthy. As lymph moves through the body it picks up toxins and bacteria to be eliminated by the lymph nodes. Because lymph moves as a result of muscle contractions and gravity, getting upside down allows lymph to more easily travel into the respiratory system where much of the toxins enter the body.

Energize: Feeling that 3pm slump coming on? Get upside down! Heating inversions such as handstand, headstand, and forearm balance get more blood moving to the brain, which results not only in physical invigoration but mental revitalization as well.

Relax: While the heating inversions (handstand & headstand) energize, inversions of the cooling type (shoulder stand & legs up the wall) work to calm the nervous system, thereby activating the parasympathetic nervous system and producing feelings of balance and calm.

Improve balance: Up the anti! Once balancing on one or two legs has been mastered, the obvious next step is finding equanimity on hands and head.

Increase core strength: Shoulders and arms—especially for women who tend to be stronger in the lower body, inversions create body balance by developing upper body strength. 

Build confidence: While that first kick up into handstand might induce varying levels of trepidation, once we “get it”, that upcoming job interview suddenly doesn’t seem so daunting.

Stay humble: And before we “get it”, those many attempts remind us of how much more we have to learn, and how truly it is about the said “journey”, not simply the destination.

Literally give us a new perspective on life: As we become accustomed to reacting to our world in a predictable way, inversions teach us through metaphor that there is always another way to approach the situation/person/problem.

Inversions are fun: Inversions reintroduce us to our inner child and remind us that while yoga is a contemplative endeavor in many ways, the asana practice is also a time to be playful and light hearted!

 

Some General Notes on Inversions

1.     Turning upside down should not be universally prescribed. There are certain contraindications that should be observed so as not to cause or exacerbate previous injuries or illnesses: unmedicated high blood pressure, some heart conditions, neck injuries, recent stroke, detached retina, glaucoma, and epilepsy are common issues that should be addressed before inverting.

2.     Women menstruating typically should avoid inversions.

3.     Inversions are fantastic all year long, but in the winter months they may be especially beneficial. There is a natural biological tendency to draw inwards, conserve energy, and move more slowly. Doing so can serve as a natural-caffeine-free way to bust out of the wintertime doldrums and access hibernating stores of internal energy. 

Lisa KanneComment