Sometimes you just need a different perspective. I firmly believe that a part of your regular yoga practice, should involve inversions. Inversions from the most basic: legs up the wall, downward dog and forward fold to slowly allowing your body to play in more challenging poses like headstand and plough.
I can remember when I was just beginning in yoga purposely seeking out classes that involved headstands in their regular practice. I thought that these poses were the key to an advanced practice, and so I would often push my body into asana’s when my mind wasn’t prepared.
Today, almost twenty years later, I look at inversions and asanas very differently. I recognize that asana’s are simply a small portion of your yoga practice. Instead, my objective is to try to link my mind and body. To feel grounded. To allow my mind to be inspired by the power in my body and conversely to allow my mind to be the inspiration for my body. This type of connected practice is particularly critical when inversions come into play.
The key in inversions is not in completing the asana but in fostering a strong connection between your mind and body. Whether this means that you spend a few seconds in a wide forward fold or a minute in a handstand.
If done incorrectly or for extended periods of time (which for some people can mean seconds or others minutes), inversions are one of the most likely asana’s to create injuries. In fact, there are some schools of thoughts that recommend avoiding inversions all together. I strongly believe that traditional inversions (head stand and plow) aren’t for everyone, but there is beauty in looking into the world in a different way and so I encourage half inversions.
The key to these movements to allow a gentle rest period for your body, to move into them fluidly and to stop if you experience any pain.
The Benefit of Inversions:
- Helps blood flow into the upper lungs
- Drain mucus from the lungs
- Allows the heart to rest
- Boosts energy: Revitalize the mind
- Gives you a different perspective
- Helps Detoxify your body
Poses that will turn your World Upside Down:
Uttanasana: Standing Forward Fold: In this pose, your heart and pelvis are above your head. If you struggle with keeping your body at 90 degrees, than try using a chair to support your body. Breathe and enjoy this different perspective.
Downward Dog: Traditionally, a resting pose, allow your body to fold gentle in this posture. Breathe. Do not push your body into this pose. If you need to bend your knees or use bricks to support your wrist, please do.
Salamba Sirasana (Supported Headstand): When venturing into headstand, remember to protect your neck and head. Proceed slowly. Begin simply practicing your head on the ground (cradled in your hands to protect your neck).
A folded blanket can also be used to protect your head and forearms. This video with Tara Stiles is an excellent example of how to progress slowly in Sirasana.
Plow Pose (Halasana): As a child, I used to regularly watch television in Plow pose. However; now my body doesn’t move as fluidly into this pose (at least not every day). Today, I encourage a very supportive inversion practice, using bolsters or cushions to support both spine and neck.
Often a great pose to follow headstand, this pose can also be enjoyed on it’s own.
For those that don’t want a full inversion, allow your body to enjoy a gentle happy baby, simply lifting your legs above your head and watching the world from the ground up.
Remember, inversions should be a restorative part of your practice. Please be gentle with your body. Use supports to protect your neck and spine and enjoy this different perspective.
Quick note: Full Inversions are not recommended for individuals who are pregnant, menstruating or suffer from spine or neck injuries.