BY: TRISHA CURLING
Straight up? I love them. I was first attracted to inversions because I thought it would just be really cool to be able to say that I could do a headstand. They are, however, much more than just really cool poses to execute. Inversions have so many benefits for both body and mind, but not all inversions are for everyone. The good news is, there are many variations that can be applied to suit your individual needs and yoga practice so that we may reap the benefits. On the most basic level, they are fun and provide a sense of confidence that can’t be explained on paper. The benefits do go way beyond fun.
“By reversing the effects of gravity, the inverted poses drain fluid out of the legs and lower body to regulate the flow of blood and lymphatic fluid. The head, brain and upper torso are nourished with fresh blood and oxygen to provide mental clarity and alertness.” (Yoga Medicine 200 Hr. Training Manual, Tiffany Cruikshank).
This sounds like a pretty good deal to me. I know that when I spend an extended period of time in front of my laptop and/or if I’m feeling a little stressed out, inversions are helpful in providing the ability to feel more refreshed and back to task. It’s not a magic pill, but the key is creating a more balanced state day to day by building them into my regular routines.
The thing is, fear might be the first thing that comes to mind when we think of inversions and this is extremely valid, especially for beginners. The first place to start is to consider what contraindications we might have before performing them. These things should be confirmed with your doctor. In addition to getting confirmation from your doctor, it is also extremely necessary to listen to your own body. If something feels wrong, or painful, staying away from these poses is the better decision. Some of the contraindications to consider are eye conditions including glaucoma, hypertension (that is not being treated), heart disease, or spinal issues.
Keep in mind that there are some very accessible ways to get into inversions that may not have implications on some of the issues you might be facing (getting the green light from your doctor is 100% necessary though). A pose like “Legs up the Wall” allows you to take the most pressure off of your spine because you are laying on a floor/yoga mat. By bringing your buttocks as close to the wall as possible and putting your legs straight up the wall, you can still receive it’s calming benefits along with breath.
Downward Facing Dog is also considered an inversion because we are taking the heart below the head. This is a common resting pose that also has benefits of building strength in the upper body. This type of pose is also a great starting point for some of the more advanced inversion postures. Doing the prep work will set the foundation for the ability to execute these postures and to receive their benefits. This pose can also be done with a bolster underneath your head to provide more support and comfort, especially if the pose is not quite comfortable yet.
More advanced postures like headstand and handstand (or any variation of the two) may seem scary, but they are extremely rewarding.
Inversions are practised by so many for more than cool photos on Instagram. When practised, we promote improved brain function, alleviation from depression, anxiety, and stress. We build upon physical strength and confidence. From time to time, take your practice upside down so that you may feel more RIGHT side up!