Our language is filled with gravity-related idioms. We fall down drunk, we are head over heels in love, we fall on our sword, we give up, we are over the moon. These idioms express the mishaps we experience in terms of being out of balance with gravity – as if gravity was some kind of antagonist watching our every move. In this post, we’ll turn the antagonist concept on its head in an exploration of yoga inversions, those postures in which the heart is higher than the head.

Yoga lends itself well to easy explorations of gravity’s effects on the body. Even seated and lying poses work with gravity to help the practitioner improve strength and balance. Inversions underscore the beneficial effects of gravity.

Headstand, for example, is known as ‘the king of yoga’ postures because it stimulates a strong, healthy brain, and of course the brain rules. B.K.S. Iyengar, one of the patriarchs of modern yoga, was said to have had a 30-minute headstand practice each morning. With dedicated commitment and the blessing of your chiropractor, you too can start your day thus. But you can reap the benefits of inversion without such a big commitment. For example, sitting in your chair, bending forward, and lowering your head below your knees will impart some of the same benefits as Iyengar’s famous practice.

Easy Yoga Inversions – Here are a few easy inversions that will bring your body rewards. If you have high blood pressure, glaucoma, heart or circulatory disorders, or are pregnant, consult your healthcare practitioner before practicing inversions.

Standing Forward Fold – Standing Forward Fold is often considered a serious hamstring stretch, and it certainly can be. But Standing Forward Fold can also help decompress the spine and stimulate a strong, healthy Iyengar-style brain. Here’s how:

  • Stand with your feet hip’s distance apart
  • Bring your hands to your hips as you bend your knees slightly and lengthen your spine – you can pull your torso up against the energy you create by pushing your hips down with your hands
  • Keeping your spine long as you fold forward
  • Cross your arms and rest them on your bent knees, or if the floor is close enough to reach without strain, rest your hands on the floor
  • Let your torso rest against your thighs
  • Tuck your chin slightly and lengthen the back of your neck
  • Relax and breathe for 10-15 breaths
  • Come up slowly, keeping your knees bent and your spine long

Rabbit Pose – Rabbit pose does all the good things headstand does but without the added nervous-making challenge of leaving the ground. Here’s how to do it:

  • Kneel down on the floor (or something comfy like a rug or yoga mat), knees together
  • Tuck your chin and bring your forehead to the floor just in front of your knees
  • Reach back and grasp your heels
  • Keeping your forehead as close to your knees as possible, slowly lift your hips until your arms are straight
  • Work toward bringing the crown of your head flat to the floor
  • Engage your abdominal muscles and pull on your heels to stretch your spine
  • Relax and breathe for 5-10 breaths
  • Come up slowly by sitting back on your heels, bring your hands to the floor near your head and push yourself up

Downward Dog – Downward Dog is the most ubiquitous yoga pose. It takes the shape of an upside down V, and can feel amazing to your spine. It is a wonderful, approachable inversion you can practice anywhere. Dogs do it all the time. Here’s how you can, too:

  • Begin on your hands and knees, with your wrists slightly wider than your shoulders, wrist creases parallel to the front of your mat
  • Spread your fingers wide and press them firmly into the mat
  • Scootch your knees back so that they are not directly under your hips, but about 6 inches behind them
  • Tuck your toes under
  • Press your hands and feet into the floor, as you engage your abs and lift your hips
  • Create as much length as you can between your hands and your hips
  • Bend your knees to accentuate your low-back curve and emphasize the lengthening of your spine
  • Keep your length and your low-back curve as you begin to straighten your legs
  • Rotate your upper arms outward (without moving your palms), creating space between your upper arms and your ears
  • Note: To check for the proper placement of your hands and feet, come forward to Plank, the top of a push-up, your hands and feet should be that far apart in Downward Dog
  • Engage your core and your quads
  • Keep your neck in line with your spine
  • Keep your muscles engaged and breathe in the pose for 5-30 breaths
  • To come out of the pose, bend your knees and lower yourself slowly to the mat

Benefits of Inversions – Inversions are the rock stars of the yoga practice. Among the many benefits they confer upon practitioners are strength, confidence, and perspective.

Circulation – The biggest and most notable benefit of an inversions practice is increased circulation. In turning your body upside down, you increase blood flow to the brain, which increases the bioavailability of oxygen and glucose. Glucose is the brain’s primary source of energy; oxygen promotes healthy brain function, growth, and healing.

Increased Immunity – Lymph is a clear fluid within the cells that contains white blood cells. Lymph cleanses the body; lymph nodes filter and eliminate bacteria, viruses, and unwanted substances. By getting upside down, gravity aids the passage of lymph to the respiratory system where many of the toxins enter the body. Better circulation of lymph through the respiratory system improves the body’s ability to fight diseas and detox.

Relaxation – Inversions trigger the relaxation response. “Baroreceptors (pressure sensors) control the nerves that regulate heart rate & blood pressure. Baroreceptors are located in the wall of each internal carotid artery, at the carotid sinus (the arteries on each side of the neck that carry blood from the heart to the brain) and in the wall of your aortic arch (just above the heart). Baroreceptors detect changes in blood pressure, stretching the blood vessels when blood pressure is high & constricting them when blood pressure is low.

When the heart is higher than your head (the definition of an inversion!), gravity causes more blood to flow toward the head, creating more pressure on the carotid sinus & aortic arch. This increased arterial pressure results in a widening of the blood vessels. Feedback signals are then sent to the body to reduce the arterial pressure, which slows your heart rate, relaxes your blood vessels & releases hormones that decrease adrenaline production.

When the neck is flexed (chin & sternum are closer together) in partially inverted postures…additional pressure is placed on the carotid sinus, increasing stimulation of the baroreceptors to enhance the calming effect.”Yoga for Musicianshttps://www.facebook.com/YogafortheArts/?fref=nf April 26, 2013 · https://www.facebook.com/SanAngeloCommunityYoga/posts/506677519393794

Mood – By going upside down, we gain a new perspective. We cannot leave a discussion of the benefits of inversions without a nod to their symbolic significance. Inverted postures literally help you turn things around—physically and mentally. Putting the heart above the head is significant. By increasing oxygen and glucose to the brain, inversions also increase the circulation of endorphins, the neurochemicals in the body that make you feel good.


References: :
Amy Weintraub (Feb 27, 2014). Inversion for Anxiety and Depression. http://yogafordepression.com/inversions-for-anxiety-and-depression/

Steve Riggs, BS, RRT-NPS. My Brain Needs Oxygen—What Can I Do? http://www.nacd.org/my-brain-needs-oxygen-what-can-i-do/

Marla Apt (March 21, 2012). Lift Into Lightness: Headstand. Yoga Journal. http://www.yogajournal.com/practice/lightness-of-being

Rhiannon Kirby (Jan 15, 2016). What’s Up with Going Upside Down? Why we do Inversions in Yoga. https://www.tulayoga.net/blog/2016/1/15/whats-up-with-going-upside-down-why-we-do-inversions-in-yoga

Megan Faletra. 3 Amazing Benefits Of Yoga Inversions. https://www.doyouyoga.com/benefits-of-yoga-inversions/


Leave a Comment