Inversions: Five Really Good Reasons to Invert

We spend an extraordinary amount of time upright, which is natural to our physical nature. Turning upside down, however, has a number of benefits to our physiology, so much so, inversions are worth discussing, and better yet, performing. In our yoga practice, we are encouraged to move away from unconscious habits and patterns as a way to perhaps shake things up or get out of a rut. We can look at simply walking on our legs, being upright instead of upside down, could be the most deeply instilled habit humans engage in every day. In the spirit of doing something different to elicit a different result, inversion could prove a most valuable addition to all yoga practices.

By definition, an inversion is any asana where the head is below the heart. There are many variations of such postures, beginning to advanced, that carry the benefits of being upside down for a period of time. Headstands, arm balances, and shoulder stands are not the only way to invert. Early on, students learn inversions such as down dog, lying supine with legs on the wall, standing forward bends, and some balance postures that begin to create inversion benefits for any student and helps to prepare for the more intense inversion postures.

It is very important to remember, the more challenging inversion postures are not for every yogi. There are some conditions and states where inversions are not advised and definitely contraindicated. These include, but are not limited to some heart conditions, neck injuries and conditions, untreated high blood pressure, eye conditions such as detached retina, glaucoma, epilepsy, recent stroke, and recent head trauma. Should you have any question as to your ability to invert, you must seek the guidance of your physician and instructor to determine whether you can invert safely. If it is determined that inversions are a ‘GO’ for you, listen to your body as to when to invert safely and when it is appropriate for you to do so, just so the maximum amount of benefit is received.

The reasons for inverting, when looked at a little closer, are quite compelling:

Increasing strength and balance:

Because humans aren’t used to being upside down for an amount of time, it is completely different for the body to be in this state. In order to facilitate, the body must find a ‘new normal’, which takes increased strength and balance. These benefits then show up in other activities and tasks of daily living. You’ll notice the difference will be quick and profound!

Inversions build confidence and mental toughness:

As we practice any posture, we gain confidence as a part of the journey. A regular practice bring strength, flexibility, power, balance, a sense of calm, and perhaps a sense of accomplishment that is used off the mat. Trust me, after mastering that first headstand, things, no matter how complicated or daunting, will suddenly be ‘just a thing’. Additionally, inversions keep us real and humble. The inversion journey reminds us of what is means to stay in the moment and master those parts of life that seem to elude us.

Inversions are Energizing:

Your circulatory system is used to pumping blood with you being upright and the effects of gravity make a difference. It is important to remember that oxygen is transported via the circulatory system so inverting and breathing will increase blood flow to the brain and will result in increased vitality and energy. Probably attractive around that 2pm daily slump!

Increased Vitality and Immunity:

Your healthy lymphatic system is key to your healthy body, as lymph picks up ‘foreigners’, such as toxins and bacteria, that are to be eradicated and eliminated by the lymph nodes. Lymph moves in conjunction with muscle contractions and gravity, so inverting gives the body a new way to move, therefore, the body must adapt in an effort to become more efficient, like with anything else.

Inversions are fun and can give us a different and fresh perspective:

Your inner child LOVES inversions and our practice teaches us that sometimes things look a little better upside down. This is yet another calling to your practice on and off the mat.
Now before you run right out there and get upside down, remember to listen to your physiology, determine if you are strong enough, and start slow. Keep your feet on the mat and shift small increments of weight into your head and shoulders to build the strength it will take to hold your body weight as opposed to your head weight. Yoga now has its first and only headstand pillow that can easily become an integral part of your practice, The YiPP. In addition to many valuable uses and applications for your practice, The YiPP can be a key prop to safe, steady, and comfortable headstands every time.

When students first begin their inversion practice, the main complaint is pain in the crown of the head. This makes sense because it takes a little adaptation for the joints, bones, and muscles to get strong (which becomes the new normal) enough to support the weight of the body. The YiPP offers a perfect surface area for your head that not only takes the feeling of the floor away, it also ‘cradles’ the head to allow for a sense of stability. At the same time, because the surface gives, the body must create balance and strength to balance on a soft surface, hence greater and quicker strength and balance. The result is a freedom to practice the inversion without distraction.

Now that you’ve performed the cerebral work involved in performing inversions, what say we get out and start on the physical… go get upside down! Happy Inverting!

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