What do you think of when you hear the word “inversion?” Like most people, it can immediately cause a little bit of panic – their minds go right to those advanced inversions like headstand and handstand or maybe even some challenging arm balances. However, inversions are not just fancy tricks that look cool on social media. There are so many accessible inversions that will give you all of the great benefits of having your head below your heart - fear factor not required!
So, how do you start getting inverted and reaping the benefits? Think about your normal day-to-day life. Most time is spent upright: walking, sitting, laying down with your head propped up on a pillow. Our heads always seem to be above our hearts, but what happens when we challenge that? Any time your head comes below your heart is considered an inversion in yoga. Asanas like downward facing dog and forward fold are great examples of ways to achieve this. They are thought to help improve circulation and lymph flow, as well as calm the nervous system. Yoga master B.K.S. Iyengar has voiced how he believes inversions purge the body of impurities, which in turn facilitates strength, calmness, and clarity of mind. Hmmm… maybe there is something to this whole getting upside down thing!
Let’s break it down with child’s pose. This might be one of my favorite inversions. Your hips are up on your heels giving you a very gentle decline as your head meets the floor. This incredibly accessible pose packs a lot of punch when it comes to benefits. It has been known to relieve stress, and release tension. Your third eye center resting on the mat releases a calming sensation so it’s always a great pose to take when you’re starting to feel stressed out during your day or have just worked a particularly difficult yoga sequence. It opens the hips and lengthens the low back while helping you reset and find that serene stillness. The next time you start feeling anxious, give this pose a try and see what it does for you!
Many people have reported their own positive experiences with practicing inversions. It has been said to be a natural anti-depressant, allowing the flush of the adrenal glands which releases endorphins that boost your mood. It can aid in digestion, and of course increases blood flow to the brain, which can result in better concentration and memory. As with anything, be cautious when practicing inversions and do not continue if you have high blood pressure or experience any kind of pain. Consult your doctor if you’re unsure of whether or not inversions can be part of your yoga practice.
So if you’re all cleared, when’s the best time to start an inversion? I say right now! I know you’ve been sitting upright reading this article, so I challenge you to get up and change your perspective! Take a forward fold, shoulder stand, or the always wonderful child’s pose. Try to notice of how you feel before and after getting inverted and how you feel the rest of your day. Take one whenever you find yourself getting stressed or agitated as well. If you can incorporate inversions into your daily yoga practice, I have a feeling you won’t be disappointed!
About Andrea Carlisle:
Andrea Carlisle will complete her 200 hour RYT from Release Yoga in 2016. Andrea loves to explore movement and mind-body connections through creative sequencing. She approaches her edge head-on with arm balances and inversions, which act as her form of meditation. She likes to be challenged and therefore challenges her students to also face fears and break down mental barriers, allowing them to grow and thrive on and off the mat. With a light heart and an upbeat attitude, Andrea hopes her students will leave feeling confident and strong, like they can conquer any obstacle in their path.