A yoga teacher’s suggestion to invert has the power to elicit a range of emotions, from confusion, anxiety, or fear to anticipation, excitement, or straight up joy. Regardless of where you land on the emotional spectrum, inversions help release tension, boost circulation, increase energy, and strengthen the physical body. Inversions can also help calm the mind and spirit and encourage us to look at things through a new lens by literally changing our perspective.
What is an Inversion?
You may think of Headstand or Handstand when you hear the word inversion; however, any asana where your head is below your heart is considered an inversion in yoga. As with all yoga postures, there are layers and levels to every pose, including inversions. Downward Dog, Dolphin, Forward Fold, and Legs Up the Wall are all examples of more gentle postures that offer all the benefits of more advanced inversions.
Benefits of Inversions
Purposely turning ourselves upside-down is contrary to our physical nature, and yet the benefits of upending ourselves are numerous. Just as yoga gently encourages us to move away from unconscious habitual patterns, the invitation to invert is another way to encourage a new perspective.
Here are ten compelling reasons to include inversions into your asana practice:
1. Inversions improve circulation and brain function. Increased blood and oxygen to the brain improves mental function, concentration, and memory.
2. They boost immunity. Inversions improve lymphatic drainage and clear toxins, helping to keep the body healthy.
3. Get an increase in energy. Vigorous inversions like Handstand, Headstand, and Forearm Balance increase blood flow to the brain which boosts energy.
4. They promote relaxation. Cooling inversions like Shoulder Stand, Forward Fold, Child’s Pose, and Legs Up the Wall, work to calm the nervous system, promoting relaxation.
5. Improve your balance. Discovering equanimity on your head and hands ups the ante in your balance game.
6. Increase your core strength. Inversions are full body exercises that require tremendous core strength to master.
7. Inversions build confidence. Mastering advanced inversions takes time and consistency and in the process cultivates confidence.
8. They keep you humble. It takes a long time and a lot of practice–and a lot of failed attempts–to become proficient with a pose like Handstand.
9. Shift your perspective. There’s always a new way to view a situation or problem and inversions remind us how to flip our perspective and find a new approach.
10. Inversions spark joy. Inversions are fun! They reintroduce you to your inner child and encourage you to be playful and lighthearted.
Are Inversions Safe?
Like all things in life, the suggestion to invert should not be universally prescribed. There are certain contraindications such as unmedicated high blood pressure, certain heart conditions, neck injuries, recent stroke, glaucoma, and epilepsy as well as previous injuries that could make inversions unsafe. If you are uncertain of your status, or if inversions are appropriate for you, consult with your doctor prior to practicing asanas that place your head below your heart.
When learning something new, it’s always best to practice with an experienced teacher who can safely guide you through the mechanics and alignments of more advanced postures. Ohana Yoga + Barre is my go-to for yoga and has an impressive array of on-demand and in-studio classes led by skillful teachers who can help you safely dive deeper into your asana practice.
Want to explore inversions on your own? Check out this 3-part class that focus on your journey to a handstand and helps you build your own inversion practice.
Erin Entlich is a certified yoga instructor, personal trainer, holistic health coach, and writer. She believes doing good starts with feeling good, which is why she loves helping people weave movement, mindfulness, and healthy eating into their daily lives. Find out more at www.erinentlich.com.