Break Up With Stress – Part Four – Inversions For Health & Well-Being

You may have heard that inversions in yoga are good for you. But do you practice them?
 
Maybe you are a bit intimated by the thought of doing an inversion. Or you don’t think you are strong enough to hold an upside down pose long enough to reap the benefits. Or perhaps when you think of an inversion you think of headstand and another pose that seems more like a circus trick than something you see yourself doing.
 
This week I would like to demystify inversions and make them accessible to you on a daily basis.
 
Inversions revitalize your whole system. By taking the weight off your legs, they relieve strain. By turning the internal organs upside down, sluggish parts are awakened. They improve circulation, support the glandular system, and help the body and mind relax, promoting deeper sleep. 
 
What is an inversion?
Technically an inverted posture means that your head is below your heart. While most inversions take strength, stamina, and flexibility by this definition even child’s pose is an inversion.
 
In some inverted postures your legs are also above your heart. But these poses don’t have to be challenging and you don’t have to be strong to perform them. There are gentle ways to do inversions. By using props for support you can hold the pose longer and take advantage of the benefits it offers.
 
Why do inversions work?
Inversions benefit all of the systems of your body. They bolster your immune system, bring clarity and focus to your mind, and turn on your nervous system toward rest and recovery.
 
As I mentioned before in an inverted pose your head is lower than your heart so gravity naturally takes your blood toward your head. Receptors in your body detect the blood flow toward your head and signal your brain to slow down your heart rate, lower your blood pressure, and turn your nervous system to relaxation mode.
 
The lymphatic system is your body’s sewage system. Lymph moves through your body picking up toxins and bacteria along the way. Getting upside down naturally brings the lymph into your respiratory system, the place where toxins enter your body. Just five minutes in an inverted posture will help the body move fluids more efficiently through the channels both removing waste and bringing nutrients to the cells. This in itself gives your immune system a boost.
 
Inverting also gives your heart a well-deserved break. Your heart works tirelessly pumping blood toward it to be oxygenated and then carrying that fresh blood chock full of nutrients back to the rest of your body. Inversions work the way cardiovascular exercises do. You have to run, dance, or bike pretty hard to get the blood circulating down to your extremities and up your back to your brain. In an inversion gravity takes the blood to your heart and ensures that oxygenated blood makes it to your brain and sensory organs giving you clarity of mind and mental focus.
 
So what are you waiting for? Turn yourself upside down!
 
Practice Phase One: These poses are all considered inversions. If you use a prop to support your head not only do you have another limb to use for support and length, you can hold the postures a bit longer in a more relaxed way. This sequence is an excellent warm up for more vigorous inversions or another practice as well as being a great way to start or end the day. Use it as a mid-day boost instead of caffeine or sweets. 
 
Set an interval timer for one minute. Hold each pose while breathing evenly. Keep your head below your heart during your transition from pose to pose. Perform each pose once, twice, or three times. You can do the same practice below using this video I filmed on YogaVibes, it’s free. 
 
 
Balasana – Child’s Pose
Sit on your shins with your feet together and your knees apart sit your hips to your heels,
stretch your spine and arms forward. Place your forehead on the floor, a block, or a folded up towel.
 
 
 
 
Uttanasana – Standing Forward Bend
Stand with your feet hips width apart and bend forward at your hips. This version suggests you place a block or a few under your head. Alternatively you can use a chair seat or a coffee table. 
 
 
 
 
Prasarita Padottanasana – Wide Legged Forward Bend
Stand with your feet wide apart and bend forward at your hips. This version suggests you place a block or a few under your head. Alternatively you can use a chair seat or a coffee table. 
 
 
 
 
 Adho Mukha Svanasana – Downward Facing Dog
Place your hands at the front of your mat and step your fit to the back. Place a block (or 2) under your forehead without straining to reach it or kinking your neck too high. Stretch your arms, legs, and spine.
 
 
 
When you complete all of the cycles you plan to, return to child’s pose. 
 
Pro-Tip: If you need to lower your head to reach the block widen the distance between your feet. If you are kinking your neck and want to be higher, narrow the distance between your feet. 
 
 
Practice Phase Two: Viparita Karani
Set this pose up at the wall. Lay with your close to the wall and the soles of your feet on the wall. Push into your feet and use your legs to lift your hips. Place a block, bolster, or folded blankets under your hips. Set your hips down and tuck your shoulders underneath you opening your chest. Straighten your legs up the wall. Stay here for 5-15 minutes. When you come out lay flat for a few minutes to ease your way back to upright.
You can practice any one of these poses on their own. Turning yourself upside down, even for just a few minutes can do wonders to re-energize you and brighten your day.
 

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