Ever wondered what an inversion is and why on earth anyone would want to carry their body weight on their hands instead of their feet? Read on for our top benefits of doing yoga inversions.
Yoga inversions can invoke quite a range of emotional responses in different people, from fear, and anxiety, to curiosity, excitement, and pride.
It might seem a bit backwards to turn yourself upside down but inversions have many health benefits that make them worthwhile! Turning things upside down challenges us to change our perspective, be conscious and present, and can be a great way to shake up our energy if we are feeling stagnant.
What exactly is an inversion in yoga?
Yoga asana’s (poses) where your heart and hips are above your head – you are upside down, changing the blood flow.
Can beginners do inversions?
YES! Ok so you may not be starting with a handstand and it sounds pretty scary to talk about going upside down, but it is a journey and you can progresses gradually on that journey. You can start with simply learning the correct alignment in plank, so you build strength.
You can also begin with easy inversions (head below heart) in many simple poses such as a forward fold or downward facing dog.
Should I include inversions in my yoga practice?
Inversions have been becoming more popular, somewhat because of instagram, but also because of their many benefits!
Inversions are challenging mentally and physically, they help us to improve our flexibility and balance and also develop more muscle strength which can help with posture and overall body alignment.
Remember that when you’re practising the more challenging forms of inversions it is good to start out with supervision and guidance from an expert. Start slowly, build strength and confidence and take baby steps on your journey upside down. You can also get the benefits of inverting from much gentler practices and build strength slowly with regular practice drills to train your bandhas, breath and body.
Having said that, inversions may not be for everyone. Inversions are contraindicated if you have head, neck, or spine injuries, high blood pressure (unmedicated), some heart conditions, recent stroke, or detached retina. If in doubt then we recommend you talk with your doctor and teacher to be sure and feel safe.
The top 8 benefits of Inversions:
- They are fun!
- Energising and improves focus
- Increases muscular strength, posture and mobility
- Improves balance
- Reduces Pain and Boosts Immunity
- Builds confidence and trust in yourself
- A change of perspective
1. They are fun!
They are a chance for us to be playful, to connect to our inner child that wants to roll around on the floor, jump upside down and cartwheel across the grass. Inversions are a moment of your yoga practice to be less contemplative and more lighthearted!
2. Energising and improves focus
Feeling low energy? Too much computer time? You can reinvigorate without a coffee, just take a few breaths in a handstand instead!
Inverting sends oxygenated blood to the brain, improves blood circulation and stimulates the lymphatic system. This transports more oxygen and nutrients around the body whilst removing toxins and waste. The nutrient and oxygen intake to the cells increases and triggers the release of endorphins that improve focus, energy levels and lifts our mood too.
Inversions also relax the nervous system by lowering the heart rate, and this is another reason we may feel more focused after being upside down.
3. Increases muscular strength, posture and mobility
Inversions require strength in several muscle groups. There are often drills and practices you can do regularly to build up strength in these specific areas. They also require over all body mobility so practising inversions and the prep toward inversions can improve your range of motion.
Prep poses like ‘downward facing dog’ works really well for lengthening the back body and also strengthening the muscles needed to help us correct our posture.
4. Improves balance
Being upside down demands a strong mind-body awareness as you are challenging your body to be in new shapes, against the flow of gravity, and often out of your comfort zone. There is a strong necessity for your body to find equilibrium, balance mentally and physically, in order to get stronger and be more agile.
5. Reduces Pain and Boosts Immunity
Through the reversing of gravity and gentle movements, inversions improve lymphatic flow and circulation, and moves fluid build up from the limbs, back towards the heart. This can reduce pain and swelling in the limbs. Improved circulation of the lymphatic system also improves immune function as it allows lymph to move quicker and easier around the body, collecting and converting toxins and bacteria.
6. Builds confidence and trust in yourself
Every time we conquer something new that felt out of reach before, we build more faith in ourselves and our capacity to do things!
Jumping up into our first handstand might have been terrifying, but 1 year on and you’re feeling more confident. It reaffirms to us that little by little we CAN do anything.
Inversions are a friendly reminder that we all have to go at our own pace. You can’t skip steps I’m afraid. Getting there, being strong, mobile, balanced and focused… all comes from starting from the foundations and building upwards.
8. A change of perspective
This is a chance to literally turn things upside down. See things from a different perspective. The same way we get stuck in the pattern that we only stand on our feet, we also start to see assumptions and patterns we might have in situations, relationships and work. Inversions are a reminder to look at things differently. Think to yourself… how would this situation look another way round?