The common characteristic of all yoga inversions is rather unusual – the body should be aligned into a specific position where the head is at a lower level than the heart. Being “upside down” doesn’t come naturally to most of us, so it’s practically impossible to get into a perfectly balanced inversion pose right from the start.
Does that mean that you should give up after a few attempts? Never! If you ask a dedicated yogi what their favorite asana is, they will probably name one of the inversion poses (handstands seem to be getting a lot of popularity on Instagram). The reason for that? Inversions take a lot of will, time, and dedication to perfect. The feeling of accomplishment when you get into Salamba Sirsasana for the first time can literally change the way you perceive yourself.
Reasons to invert
- When your body defies the principles of gravity, the blood flow into the head is improved. Your brain gets refreshed with more oxygen, which is why you will feel relaxed and energized after doing an inversion pose. All intellectual functions of the brain will be enhanced, including creativity, visualization, and focus.
- Your feet and legs will finally get a rest from the tiring daily activity. Yoga practice after a day of standing is the best way to deal with exhausted legs and swollen ankles.
- Inversion poses are better than facials. Since they are helping the flow of oxygenated blood towards the face, regular practice will result with refreshed, clearer complexion. Even if you didn’t get into yoga for beauty enhancement purposes, you will surely appreciate fewer wrinkles and gray hairs. In addition, these asanas also prevent hair loss.
- A well-planned practice with inversion poses will lead to a balanced nervous system.
- Your body posture and sense of balance will be improved with regular practice.
- Certain inversion poses (such as Sarvangasana) stimulate the functioning of the thyroid gland.
- As you progress through the stages of a pose and gradually work your way towards the more complex asanas, your self-confidence will be improved. Inversions are not meant to be ego-boosters, but they will remind you that you can achieve much more than you think you’re capable of.
If you are completely healthy, then there is nothing stopping you from practicing inversion asanas. However, these poses are contraindicated for people with heart conditions, high blood pressure, and glaucoma. It’s also not recommended to invert when you have an active toothache.
Pregnant women are not recommended to include inversions in their practice routine if they are beginners in yoga. For those who have practiced yoga prior to their pregnancy, inversion poses are great, but should be performed with great caution. This is not the time to experiment.
Inversion poses may be contraindicated during the first days of menstruation. Some women feel okay doing them, so let your intuition be your guide at this point and invert only if it feels good.
Recommended inversion poses
For beginners in yoga, the best place to start is Viparita Karani. Almost everyone can get into this pose after few attempts, and it’s comfortable enough to tame the fear of inversions. Mastering Viparita Karani will pave the way towards more challenging positions.
Salamba Sarvangasana (Shoulder Stand) is another asana that you can master with a little effort. When you feel confident enough, you can start getting into Eka Pada Sarvangasana (One Leg Shoulder Stand).
Practicing headstands is not recommended for beginners, so make sure to give yourself some time before you start making your first attempts. It is very important to follow proper instructions and slowly progress towards Salamba Sirsasana with a little help from the wall.
If all those photos on Instagram and Tumblr got you excited about handstands, then it’s time to use that motivation and slowly work your way towards Adho Mukha Vrksasana (Handstand).
Keep in mind that inversion asanas are not to be practiced individually. They should be part of a balanced routine that combines their benefits for the ultimate effect.
Don’t be afraid to invert. You can do it!
There is one important thing to remember when doing inversion poses: if you don’t trust yourself, trust the wall. No one got into a perfect inversion asana the first time they tried it, no matter how advanced they seem to be at the moment. The little steps of the journey matter more than the destination itself.
Remember to start with the simpler poses and keep in mind that even if you fall from Viparita Karani (which is not likely to occur), nothing bad will happen.
The good thing about fear is that you can face it and get out of the experience as a stronger person. Remember those moments and reflect on them when you master an asana. Think about the emotional conflicts you had when you first saw the pose being presented, how you have gradually surpassed the feeling of panic and now you are facing the world upside down. That’s what yoga is all about!
Yogasync Me! If you’re inspired to turn your yoga practice on its head, click here to get up close and personal with inversions: