An inversion is common practice in Yoga: all the poses where your hips are higher than your head are considered inversions. For example, our good old downward facing dog! Some famous ones, that can represent a goal in some yogis’ asanas practice are headstand or handstand. But, why do yogis get upside down? Is this only about getting that Instagram picture?
And I will tell you why!
Disclaimer: anyone with high or low blood pressure should be particularly careful while practicing inversions.
Improves blood circulation and gives your joints a break
By reversing the effect of gravity, your blood rushes towards your upper body. That way, you are giving your joints a well-deserved rest and offering freshly oxygenated blood to your heart and your brain. More oxygen in your brain means better focus and better function, and having the legs up will make them feel so light
Strengthens the body
Inversions require strength and flexibility in the body. To keep your balance in these tricky poses you will have to keep your body tight and strong. They will demand strong core and leg engagement, and will strengthen your upper body too. They require flexibility in the body to be performed which make them a great exercise to feel balanced and aligned.
Meditation in movement
Being upside down requires a lot of concentration, as at first, it is unnatural. But if you are able to overcome your worries and concerns, you enter a state of full focus. Just a few seconds in an inversion is enough to feel the stress relief benefits. It calms the mind and is also fun! In the yoga sutras, as he describes the 8 Limbs of Yoga, Patanjali talks about Pratyhara: Withdrawal of the senses and Dharana: concentration. Through our inversion practice, we practice these two limbs, as to perform these poses our mind needs to be fully connected to the present moment and absolutely committed to the asana. This means that we not only work our bodies, we also give our mind a well-deserved rest: shutting down our inner voice for an instant.
Pushes your boundaries
Part of the beauty of the yoga practice is to realise the capability of your body to evolve and become a stronger and more flexible version of itself. The first time you are upside down, you may feel totally confused, not knowing your right from your left, your front from your back, and that’s the point! We are shifting perspective, opening ourselves to a new way of experiencing our bodies in space. Through this physical experience, you can open your mind to see things differently. This is the first step in a journey of trust, learning each day, that you are able to do so much more than you may think.
Below are some Inversions that you may try. We always suggests practicing new poses under the guidance of an experienced teacher. Stay safe and don’t do anything that your body isn’t ready for.
Helen is a performer and a Yoga teacher. She teaches Vinyasa Flow, Yin, and Meditation in Paris. Her classes are catered for busy city lifestyle people who need to reconnect with themselves in movement as well as in stillness. She regularly leads workshops and retreats, find more about her work at www.helenwatkins.yoga and follow her yogic journey on instagram @LnWatkins