Hangin’ Out Upside Down

upside-downWhen I was a kid, Charlotte, I loved being upside down. I would hang from my legs on the monkey bars and swing upside down from the trapeze thingee in our backyard. Cartwheel, somersault, handstands … anytime I could.

I don’t remember anyone teaching me this stuff. And I wasn’t scared. I just did it. Even falling off the trapeze thingee and breaking my wrist didn’t stop me.

My boys have always loved to hang off the couch – legs up, head down – to read and watch movies. They’re 11 now and still do it!

It’s something we just seem to do as kids. But as adults, we become fearful of being upside down.

In yoga class, how do you feel when the teacher suggests going into an inverted posture? Unless they’re a regular part of your practice, you may feel a bit of fear, bewilderment, excitement, and butterflies …

Turning yourself upside down on purpose sort of goes against your adult nature. But yoga encourages you to break habitual patterns and do things that make you feel slightly uncomfortable. Turning yourself upside down is a way to shake things up a bit and see the world from a different perspective.

What is an Inversion in yoga?

An inverted pose is one where your head is below your heart. This might bring to mind poses such as Headstand, Shoulderstand, Plow and Handstand. But there are lots of gentler inversions to choose from. These include Downward Dog, Legs Up the Wall and Standing Forward Fold.

Why practice yoga inversions?

Good for your Heart
Turning upside down reverses blood flow and improves circulation. Veins return blood to the heart and depend upon muscles and gravity to do this job. Going upside down encourages venous return. It also gives the heart a break. Blood is able to flood to the brain with little work from the heart.

Supports your Lymphatic System
Inverting improves your immunity and helps prevent illness. The lymphatic system gets rid of waste from your body, balances fluids and supports immunity. Turning upside down stimulates the lymph system

Energizing
Some inversions (such as headstand and forearm stand) are very energizing. They increase blood moving to the brain. This is physically invigorating and mentally refreshing.

Relaxing
Gentle inversions (such as Legs Up the Wall) are relaxing. They induce feelings of calm and balance by activating the parasympathetic nervous system.

Balance
Inversions provide a new dimension to balance. You need to figure out how to hold your body in space while upside down. This helps improve your body awareness.

Fun and Confidence Building!
It’s an awesome feeling to kick up into headstand for the first time. Once you do, you realize it’s not so scary after all. You might just find your inner child wanting to jump out!

Perspective
Inversions literally make you see the world from a different viewpoint. This metaphor teaches you that there is always another way to look at a person or a situation.

Of course inversions are neither for everyone nor always appropriate depending on your health. If you have experienced any of these conditions – high blood pressure, recent stroke, heart conditions, epilepsy or glaucoma – do not invert without first consulting your doctor.

Inversions have many benefits and are great additions to your practice. Just be sure to listen to your inner wisdom and check your ego. A few suggestions for your inversion practice:

  • Take your time and go gently when inverting
  • Work with a knowledgeable teacher
  • Go to class and learn the basics (extension in the spine, shoulders open) in order to invert safely
  • Be compassionate and patient with yourself and listen to your body
  • Know that your inversion practice will change over time and maybe even from day to day

How about it – want to hang out upside down with me this week?  

Image courtesy of Steven Depolo

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