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The benefits of inversions

handstand

Inversions are yoga poses or practices where our head is situated below our heart. While there are many benefits to doing these asanas, the more difficult ones can also be incredibly challenging both mentally and physically. It’s time to reduce your aversion to inversions! Learn why you would do them and how you can incorporate them into your routine – even if flipping into a handstand is not your thing.

Why would you want to go upside down?

When we invert our body, it sends pooled energy and blood in our lower body back up to the important areas that need it; our heart, lungs, head, and a number of endocrine glands that are key to our health.

Inversions are also said to have a calming effect on the mind and can help you improve clarity and focus, while also challenging the strength of your upper body and core, as well as your balance.

But I’m too scared to do handstands!

Guess what? That’s okay. As an inversion is classified as any pose where your head is below your heart, this also includes:

  • Uttanasana (Forward Fold)
  • Adho Mukha Svnasana (Downward Facing Dog)
  • Dolphin Pose (Downward Facing Dog on your forearms)
  • Anahatasana (Melting Heart)
  • Pincha Mayurasana (Feathered Peacock Pose/Forearm Handstand)
  • Salamba Sarvangasana (Supported Shoulderstand)
  • Viparita Karani (Waterfall Pose/Legs up the wall)

And any half version or wall supported versions of these.

Viparita Karani: The most gentle inversion

This pose is often used in restorative practices as you can position yourself into it relatively easily, and it’s accessible for most people. All you need is yourself and a wall.

Sit up again the wall with your hip touching it, then swivel yourself so that your legs go straight up the wall and you can lie your body down on the ground.

Shuffle yourself around a little until your sitbones are as close to the wall as possible, there’s a soft bend in both knees, and you can get a tall spine. Have your arms at your sides, palms rotated up towards the ceiling.

Voila! Stay here in this pose for as long as you like. This can be used as an alternative to Svasana (Corpse Pose) for relaxation at the end of class. You can also do it with your knees hooked over a chair if there is no wall available.

When should I be skipping inversions?

While there are a lot of benefits to inversions, there are some conditions that are contraindicated (meaning you should give inversions a miss). These conditions include:

  • Glaucoma or other eye disorders
  • High blood pressure or dizziness
  • Heart disease or stroke history
  • Diabetes
  • Spinal conditions
  • Head injuries
  • Neck pain

Obviously, the physicality required to do a handstand is quite different from doing Viparita Karani in a restorative way, so it’s important to consult your GP or specialist if you have any concerns so they can tell you what might be suitable or unsuitable for your specific condition.

It’s also important to mention that there are also two schools of thought around pregnancy and menstruation. Many teachers advise against strong inversions such as handstands or forearm handstands if you are pregnant or menstruating as these are times when our energy is supposed to be ‘down and outwards’ in direction. Being upside down causes our energy to flow the opposite of this.

Modern approaches have led many to continue practicing as usual, regardless of pregnancy stage or menstruation. At Grace, Grit & Gratitude, we prefer to err on the side of caution and recommend that these are good times to observe self-care, and strong core work and extremely physical poses should be avoided. However, as always in the case of pregnancy it’s important to consult your LMC if you have any specific questions around this.

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