Sometimes all you need to turn things around is a fresh perspective. Or a new path, a different take and a jolt from your comfort zone. And I’ve got just the thing, let me introduce inversion poses.
In short, inversions are poses that put feet above head. There are many inversions one may do throughout a yoga class and some of the more common inversions are Adho Mukha Savasana (Downward Dog), and Salamba Sarvangasana (Shoulder Stand). Positioning your body upside down (something that we don’t normally do) can give us a new outlook on life, and, hopefully, we are then able to look at our lives with a fresh set of eyes, thus giving us the ability to change physical and mental habits.
Inversions help us overcome fear by teaching us not to be afraid to fall. We learn to support ourselves by being upside down, and we experience our practice and our world much differently than when we are standing and sitting. It may take some time to adjust to inversions, we may even fall a few times, but we strengthen our practice by literally embracing the ups and the downs. This helps boost our confidence, and prepares us for new possibilities.
The physical benefits of inversions are many. Inversions lower stress and blood pressure by calming the mind and regulating and balancing the nervous system. They also give the heart a break. The heart works really hard to pump blood into the brain, and when we are inverted, the heart does not need to create so much pressure. Lastly, inversions energize us as blood and energy shift in the body. They help drain fluid build-up in the blood vessels and lymphatic channels of the legs. Inversions help lymphoid tissues improve circulation of lymph, strengthening the immune system and fighting off disease.
A wonderful and easy inversion that can be done at the office or at home is Viparita Karani (Legs Up The Wall) – all you need is some wall space. Do this pose every day for ten minutes and feel the wonderful effects!
Note: Before doing any inversions, please consult a physician first if you have high blood pressure, eye/ear conditions, or a history of circulatory problems.
Viparita Karani (Legs Up The Wall)
1. Bring the short end of a blanket or mat against the wall.
2. Sitting on your mat, bring either your right hip or left hip against the wall.
3. Swing your legs up so they are resting again the wall, place your back and head on the floor.
4. Slide forward so that your sitting bones are gently touching the wall.
5. Relax your feet, neither point nor flex them.
6. You can place a folded blanket under your lower back for support.
7. Bring your arms on the floor either shoulder height or beside your torso, palms facing up.
8. Close your eyes, breathe deeply, and soften each and every part of your body.
9. Let your legs become heavy sinking into your hip sockets.
10. Stay for 10-15 minutes. To come out of the pose, bend your knees bringing your feet to look in the wall.
11. Bring your arms over your head and roll over to one side resting your head on your arm.
12. Slowly come up to sitting.
Michelle Uy is a Certified Yoga Teacher and Owner of LoveActionYoga. She is Co-Creator of the Eat Well Feel Well Program, a yoga and nutrition program, and she is also certified to teach Yoga Thrive, a therapeutic yoga program for cancer survivors.