As we covered earlier this month, inversions are powerful yoga poses that can strengthen your muscles, inspiring balance and stability and reinvigorating your circulation and lymphatic system. Yoga inversions provide a great physical challenge that boosts energy and inspires relaxation. While certain inversions may prove strenuous, many poses are accessible to all levels of fitness and experience.
An inversion, where you head is lower than your heart, does not necessarily entail standing on your head. There are poses of varying degrees of difficulty. Here are three inversions which you might want to try, always checking with a medical and yoga practitioner that it is safe to do so given any injuries or health issues you may have.
Downward Facing Dog
This is perhaps the most well-known inversion in yoga and whilst not overly difficult to get into position, it is a strong pose to maintain and a real solid strengthener.
- Start on all fours, making sure that your hands are firmly pressed into your yoga mat. Your upper arms and shoulders need to be rolled out and your forearms straight and slightly rolled in.
- Inhale with a deep breath and as you exhale bring your hips up, starting to straighten your legs, keeping your back straight and pushing against the mat with your hands.Your body should look like an upside-down V.
- Press your shoulder blades down as you lengthen your spine, as you bring your knees back to a straight leg position, if possible, with your feet slightly apart and facing forward and the soles of your feet and heels flat on the mat.
- Make sure your fingers are slightly splayed and that you are putting your weight onto the firm grounded palm rather than on your wrists. Likewise, make sure your feet are parallel and hip-width apart.
- Your hands need to be under your shoulders and keep your elbows from pinging out as this could put undue pressure on your elbow joint.
- It is easy to lurch-forward and lose balance with this pose, so consciously move your weight from your arms through your hips, to create greater stability.
- This inversion really stretches your hamstrings but be wary of overstretching or creating an unbalanced pose by trying to fight against tightness in this part of the leg. Instead, bend your knees slightly and shift your body into the correct posture, keeping a central square shape between your hands and feet.
A far more relaxing and less challenging inversion, which can really lengthen and relieve pressure in the spine.
- Start in a kneeling position with your hands resting lightly on your thighs, before raising your arms with the palms facing, being careful to keep the shoulders from hunching.
- Breathe in deeply and as you slowly exhale bend forward with a smooth movement, so that the arms move forward and your forehead rest on the ground.
- Turn your arms so that the palms rest on the mat as you stretch them out without pulling the neck muscles or tensing the shoulders and back.
- Relax further into the pose by staying in position and breathing deeply, before drawing the arms in and gently curling the spine to get into your starting position.
Next week, we look at even more inversions for beginners and you can join our dynamic yoga sessions by getting in touch.
Sometimes you need to shake things up to get a fresh perspective on life and you can also do the same with yoga exercises. Creating a different approach to movement with yoga inversions can have some really beneficial effects on your mind and body, such as strengthening your core and so much more. Is it time you turned your fitness moves upside down?
A yoga inversion pose is basically a pose where your heart is higher than your head. If you think about your everyday life, when you walk, run or go about your chore and work, you are usually upright or at least you are not walking on your hands or doing a headstand. Inversions can really test you physically as they involve positions which seem to go against your natural way of moving. However, if a shoulder stand sounds a little advanced, there are many inversions, such as downward dog which are perhaps easier positions to get into.
What are the benefits of yoga inversions?
Yoga inversions get your body moving in a new direction and for this reason, it is always good to check with a doctor and your yoga tutor about any health issues you might have before you start turning your body upside down. Once you do start doing some inversions you will probably start to really enjoy them. Some of the benefits of yoga inversions include:
- Improved circulation – When you invert you are effectively reversing the blood flow and as oxygen-rich is sent to the brain you are really giving your body a circulatory refresh. This can help boost concentration and focus and leave you feeling mentally alert. Many people swear a headstand in the morning gets their brain working for the rest of the day!
- Increased core strength – With inversions you are often relying on your upper body to help you stay in position, such as with a forearm stand. You are keeping in position against gravity by engaging your core muscles and even without moving, yoga inversions are a great way to strengthen this part of your body. You only have to get into an inversion for a short time to really feel how powerful these yoga positions are, and how effective.
- Relaxation – Supported-inversions and certain types of restorative inversions have more of a calming influence on the body, such as lying down with your legs up a wall. This relieves tension and stress in the body and activates the parasympathetic nervous system.
- Boosting energy – More challenging inversions create a real rush of blood to the head which has a stimulating and invigorating effect on the whole body. This has the effect of giving your body a powerful energy boost which makes you feel motivated and ready for an active life. Inversions really do shake you up in a good way!
- Increase stability and balance – For many inversions, you need to ensure that you keep your body in a balanced position. You may be upside down and balancing on one arm and two legs or one leg and two arms, or even just your shoulders. Part of the practice of inversions is to promote balance, especially since these are resistance exercises which need strong physical stability to be achieved.
- Helps detox process – Many inversions increase the flow of lymph which helps clear the body of toxins, which are eliminated by the lymph nodes. The flow of fluids can help lymph travel into the lungs where toxins and mucus are found. The result is a real boost to the lymphatic system and in turn to your immunity response.
Next week, we will look at some great inversions for you to try. Meanwhile, join us in some great yoga moves.