Guest Author - Deborah Mauldin
There are a number of yoga asanas that can collectively be called inversions. An inversion is any posture that places the heart above the head and many of these inversions require balancing on the hands or forearms and essentially turning oneself upside down. At first glance, the idea of going upside down may be scary to contemplate and that is completely understandable. Given that it is natural and comfortable to stand upright and balance on the feet and legs, placing that task on the hands and arms can seem downright unnecessary. And yet, there is great benefit to be had in the body by going upside down every once in awhile!
Inversions include the following postures:
Adho Mukha Svanasan - Downward Facing Dog
Adho Mukha Vrksasana - Downward Facing Tree or Handstand
Astavakrasana - Eight-Angle Pose
Bakasana - Crow or Crane Pose
Parsva Bakasana - Side Crane or Side Crow Pose
Halasana - Plow Pose
Mayurasana - Feathered Peacock Pose
Salamba Sirsasana - Supported Headstand
Sirsasana - Headstand
Sarvangasana - Shoulder Stand
Urdhva Dhanurasana - Upward Bow Pose, Wheel Pose
Vrschikasana - Scorpion Pose
Inversions are packed with benefits for your body. For example, when turned upside down the flow of cerebrospinal fluid is reversed and your brain gets positively bathed in this fluid, delivering a great dose of endorphins to the brain. This is just one reason why you may feel happy and playful when you come out of an inversion. Inversions also help to counter the effects of gravity. Going upside down allows gravity to pull on the circulation, muscles and joints in the opposite direction for a bit which, over time, can provide a counter to the effects of gravity. It also revitalizes the organs by providing a fresh bath of nutrients as circulation reverses. All of these occurrences combine to help slow down the aging process and keep the body healthy and strong.
Another aspect to inversions is what they can do for your perspective. Spending time upside down literally changes how you see the world. Everything appears upside down when you are upside down, and with this new angle to view from you may receive new insight for your life. In the act of inverting the body you place yourself in a new situation that can be fearful. This gives you the chance to embrace your fear and allow yourself to move into new territories of thought or action that you might have previously believed were impossible for you.
The practical matters of coming into inversions center around increasing your balance and your awareness of your neutral alignment. While strength is a necessary component of moving into an inversion, it is your alignment that will allow you to hold an inversion for longer than a few seconds. Proper alignment will also reduce the risk of injuries as you practice inversions. While vidoes are a great way to learn how to do asanas, it is highly recommended that you begin to practice inversions under the direct guidance of a trained yoga teacher. He or she will be able to help you with your alignment and with assisting you into the inversion so that you can fully experience the posture.
If you’re considering adding inversions to your practice, be sure to check with your doctor first if you have blood pressure issues such as hypertension, hypotension or glaucoma. Inversions may be contraindicated in such cases due to the effects inverting the body can have on blood pressure.
In closing, allow a bit of playfulness and adventure into your practice and invite the benefits of inverting your body into your practice and into your life. Have fun turning your world upside down!