If you’ve attended a yoga class, you may have heard of inversions. Some people wrongly assume that they can only be used by expert yogis, however, this couldn’t be further from the truth. Inversions can be safely practiced by people of all sorts and have a number of great benefits. Like many other yoga poses, inversions can add something ‘extra’ to your routine, break you out of your comfort zone, and mix things up a bit!
So, what is an inversion? Generally, any posture that places the head below the heart is considered as an inversion. Some of the most commonly referred to inversions are Handstand, Headstand, and Forearm Stand. However, there are gentler options that are more suited to beginners. Examples of these include Shoulder Stand, Downward Dog, and Legs Up the Wall. To practice these, all you’ll need is a supportive yoga bra and some comfy clothing. In this article, we explore some of the benefits of yoga inversion in more detail.
The first benefit of yoga inversions is that they lower blood pressure. As they increase the blood flow to the heart, the organ doesn’t have to work as hard to pump oxygenated blood through the body. With the flow of blood reversed, you may experience a slower heart rate, a sense of calmness and well-being, and, of course, lower blood pressure. This makes inversions particularly helpful for those with high blood pressure.
In many cases, back pain is exacerbated by the pressure of gravity. This is why sufferers of back pain have to spend a large amount of time laying down. Reversing gravity’s force, inversions relieve the pressure on the spine and gently pull it in the opposite direction. Not only can this alleviate back pain, but it can also improve your posture. If lying flat on your back relieves discomfort, definitely try a couple of simple inversions.
During an inversion, the direction of blood flow is reversed. In turn, this increases circulation to all areas of the body – including the brain. As blood flows towards the head, the brain is provided with more oxygen which can increase cognitive function.
When used regularly, inversions can detoxify the body. The immune system consists of tissues and organs that rid the body of waste and toxins. This is known as the lymphatic system. This system is responsible for immune system balance, fluid balance, and waste removal. Inversions can be used to stimulate the lymphatic system and help the body to release waste and toxins.
Inversions stimulate the pituitary gland – the gland that controls growth and development. Additionally, the postures can stimulate the cerebrospinal fluid, the fluid known as the ‘the juice’ of the central nervous system.
When the lymphatic system isn’t functioning correctly, it can result in bad circulation, fluid retention, and excess waste materials. Over time, gravity causes the waste product to accumulate in the lower extremities. If left untreated, this can leave you feeling sluggish, fatigued, and uncomfortable. Inversions stimulate the lymphatic system and help fluids to drain correctly. When the lymphatic system is working well, it can improve your immune response, alleviate congestion, and minimize fluid retention.
During an inversion, blood rushes to the brain. In turn, this stimulates and invigorates the rest of the body. Putting your head below your heart can increase alertness and focus, as well as giving the body a boost of energy. Additionally, some inversions can be used to heat the body. Examples of these include Handstand, Headstand, and Forearm Stand. As these postures allow more blood to flow to the brain, they can increase both physical and mental energy.
Another great benefit of inversions is relaxation. Certain asanas, such as Shoulder Stand and Legs Up the Wall, are calming and cooling inversions. During these poses, the parasympathetic nervous system is activated. This helps to relax the body and mind and provide a sense of peace and balance.
When used regularly, inversions can increase immunity. As mentioned previously, your health relies upon your lymphatic system. When functioning correctly, this system picks up toxins and carries them to lymph nodes to be eliminated. As inversions benefit the lymphatic system, they can also increase our immunity. Turning your body upside down can help lymph to reach key areas of the body quickly and easily.
Most inversions require an element of balance. Learning to find this can help bring balance to your life off the mat, as well as on it. Good balance requires time, practice, and patience, as well as being present in the moment. Once learned, these qualities can bring balance to your everyday life.
Many of the upper body muscles are used in inversions, including the shoulder, arm, and core muscles. When practiced regularly, inversions can increase strength in these areas and help to tone the body. Many yoga poses help to build a strong lower body, so inversions are a great way to balance things out.
While some inversions are simple, others are more challenging. Working towards harder poses can help you to gain patience. Each time you attempt an inversion, think of it as a learning experience. If you fail, get back up and try again. Remember that yoga is about the journey, not the destination.
To reap the benefits of yoga inversion, incorporate some inversion poses into your routine. If you’re unsure on how to practice them, consider attending a local yoga class. There, an experienced instructor can advise you on how to get the best results. Before your first class, pack your yoga bag with a bottle of water and a soft towel.