I spent this last weekend at a Yoga workshop, and it included working on inversions (positioning yourself with your heart above your head). I had recently discovered my love of being upside-down, and I have a goal of being able to do a non-assisted handstand, so it was awesome learning more about inversions and how to progress.
There are a lot of health benefits associated with inversion, and I believe that everybody should reap some rewards by inverting regularly. To many people, inversion is seen as a scary advanced/acrobatic-like form of exercise. And it can be, yes, but inverting can be as simple as lying on your back with your legs resting up against a wall.. we concluded the workshop with a few minutes in this pose. It felt amazing.
So here are a few of the benefits of spending some time upside-down:
Improved Blood Flow & Brain Function
Being inverted increases blood flow to the heart, giving it a break from having to work hard to pump, making your cardiovascular system work more efficiently. Blood flow increases to the brain as well, giving it more oxygen and nutrients. This allows the brain to function more efficiently, improving concentration, memory, observation and clear thinking. Stagnant blood from the legs and feet is also moved while inverted, which decreases inflammation and leg pain (I do the legs-up-the-wall pose as recovery after an intense lower body workout).
Improved Hormone Production
Being inverted stimulates all of the glands of the body (adrenal, thyroid, pituitary, etc.), increasing hormone production and balance. We rely on hormones to regulate our mood, skin, bones and metabolism. Yes, spending a little time in inversion can boost your mood and metabolism.. and it’s been thought to help clear your skin and improve hair growth. Cortisol (the stress, “fight or flight” hormone) is also decreased while being inverted, which calms the body and mind. If you have trouble sleeping, try inverting right before bed. It will make a difference.
Unlike the circulatory system with the heart, the lymphatic (immune) system doesn’t have an automatic pump to circulate lymphatic fluid throughout the body. Being upside-down increases lymphatic drainage, boosting your immunity. Do you get sick a lot? If so, start inverting daily!
Being inverted increases movement through the bowls, helping to clear your digestive system. When you’re dealing with indigestion, spend some time upside-down.
Improved Upper Body Strength
Headstands (when supported correctly), forearm stands, and handstands require a lot of work from your shoulders/arms to keep you supported. If you invert in either of those positions regularly, your upper body strength will increase.
If being upside down scares you, it’s okay. Like I mentioned above, inverting can be any position where your heart is above your head. If you work on progressing to a more difficult inversion, conquering that fear will greatly increase your confidence, improving your awesomeness. If you have no desire to progress your inverting, that’s okay! You’ll notice a difference in how you think and feel after regularly inverting, which will also improve your awesomeness. It’s a win-win!
Important things to keep in mind… if you deal with neck pain/issues, be Very Careful. If you do a shoulder stand, DO NOT turn your neck to the side. If you’re doing a headstand, have your weight on the crown of your head, NOT YOUR FOREHEAD! There should be NO pain or strain anywhere, so please be cautious and listen to your body. Also, you shouldn’t stay inverted if you start to feel dizzy, or like your head is about to explode. Invert at your own risk. Start simple, then progress from there.
Now get upside-down!!