Inversions are not just fancy acrobatic looking postures that rock star yogis and yoginis do. In fact, I believe that most any one can benefit from including an inversion or two into their daily yoga practice. These postures can be highly therapeutic, healing and come with a plethora of health benefits.
What Is An Inversion Exactly?
An inversion is any posture that places your head below your heart, so that the flow of blood is reversed. You can go totally upside-down like in Handstand (Adho Mukha Vrksasana) and Headstand (Sirsasana) or just part of the way upside-down like in Shoulder Stand (Sarvangasana) or even Downward Facing Dog (Adho Mukha Svanasana). Legs Up The Wall posture is an awesome restorative inversion. There is an inversion for every practice, for every fitness level, and for every part of your natural cycle and rhythms of practice.
Here are my top 7 reasons why Inversions rock!
1. Improved Digestion
When you flip upside down, the weight of gravity on your digestive organs is reversed. This can help to support better digestion by moving old waste out of the system due to the different pressure as well as help to release any trapped gas.
2. Improved Blood Flow To The Head And Brain
This is pretty obvious but the rush of fresh blood to the head and brain can really help to improve mental function, and can help to nourish all contents of your head like your eyes. Remember that blood carries oxygen and nutrients so getting an extra dose of blood to your brain can be very healing.
3. Relief Of Excess Fluid Buildup In The Legs
Reversing the effect of gravity for 10-15 minutes can be very relieving if you struggle with excess fluid retention in your legs. Legs Up the Wall is an amazing posture if this is something that you deal with.
4. Reduce Varicose Vein Pain
Taking the pressure off of your legs by sending them up into the air can be highly therapeutic if you deal with leg pain. Again, Legs Up the Wall along with Shoulder stand are great choices for this.
5. Better Focus
Sending all that fresh oxygen and nutrient-rich blood to your brain can really help to improve your sense of focus and concentration. Headstand is great if you want to feel more grounded and steady, where as handstand can help to increase your energy levels. Both will be great for focus, just choose which one will serve you best at the time.
6. A Shift In Perspective
When you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change. I have personally experienced changes in my own perceptions of my circumstances through the practice of turning myself upside down. You never know what you may discover when you choose to change your vision to align with something new. Head stand, Shoulder Stand and even Downward Dog are great contemplative postures as they can be held for great lengths of time.
7. Strengthening of the Body
Postures like Handstand, Shoulder Stand and Head Stand all require great muscular strength and good core engagement, especially if you plan to hold your posture for more than a few breaths. These inversions can help to build those subtle core muscles that make your body more stable and durable.
Remember that some of these postures do require great strength and balance, so always work with a qualified instructor when learning new inversions. You will get the same benefits from a really well-aligned Downward Dog or Legs Up the Wall posture as you will from a good headstand, so there is no need to rush your body.
Practice within your means when alone, and get a teacher to help you reach new places in your inversion practice!