Upside Down Asanas
These days there is a plethora of asanas we practice in all branches of yoga. Originally in the Yoga Sutras there was mention of only two postures. Descriptions were provided for Savasana as well as how to sit to meditate in Lotus Pose. However, in today’s yoga world new asanas are being created every day. Adaptations and extensions are added on to traditional poses. Additionally, fusion practices allow everyone and anyone to find the yoga that suits them. One group of asanas is inversions. Although along the way it has been known to strike such emotions from fear to exhilaration into the hearts of yogi’s in any studio, there are many inversions one can do that do not require standing on your head.
Inversions are any asanas where the heart is positioned above the head. Yes! That means even downward facing dog is an inversion. There is a wide range of inversions that range from subtle to intense and many we enjoy in our most common and enjoyable practices.
So what are the benefits of incorporating inversions into your yoga practice?
Reversing the effects of gravity on the body allows blood to travel more easily to the heart and brain. The blood pumping through the veins back to these organs is usually shunted along with the help of Venous valves. It is because of these valves that the chance of back flow of oxygenated blood is eliminated. Turning upside down aids the movement of this blood back to the heart and lungs. As a result it also allows a greater flow of oxygen to reach the heart and brain, increasing you concentration and memory.
The Lymphatic System is made up of nodes (or glands) and vessels that move particles through the body, specifically removing unwanted toxins, proteins and bacteria. A healthy Lymphatic System is important for ensuring a well functioning immune system in the body. The flow of the lymph fluid through these vessels is generated when smaller muscles and larger skeletal muscles of the body move. Therefore, inverting the body allows the lymph to move with the added force of gravity to cleanse the system.
Full inversion which are more intense such as headstands or handstand recruit many more muscles and activate large muscle groups (including your core) which work together to keep you keep up right. You do not need to hold the poses for long to feel the effects of working these muscles! With consistent practice you will become stronger and more stable.
Full inversions inject a big boost into the Nervous System. You will feel these physical and mental effects immediately. You body will heat up and you mental awareness will become heightened. However, inversions including shoulders stands or legs up the wall have a different effect. Moving into these less intense inversions have a cooling calming effect. Legs up the wall particularly is a great asana to wind down your Nervous System. After a long day or during a busy stage of your life, use this pose to ease stress and anxiety.
Getting upside down not only impacts you physiologically, it allows you to break social, emotional and spiritual ruts you may be experiencing. It physically and metaphysically lets you see the world and yourself from a different view. Due to this shift of focus, your new and different perspective promotes problems solving in relation to extinguishing habit and routines that no longer serve you.
Most of all… it’s fun! Why? Because you get to be a kid again and reminisce the days of playing in the park or the school playground. Yogis can master handstands, shoulder stands and the less intense version with support, practice and safe methods. Have a go and don’t worry if you can’t stick it; work up to it gradually with the help of the wall or a stable chair as aides and just enjoy the experience!
See you on the flip side.
Check out my ‘Wall Supported Yoga’ practice if you’re keen to give some wall inversions a go!