The therapeutic benefits of yoga are well-touted. From reducing anxiety and promoting relaxation to increased flexibility and strength; yoga practice pays off in spades. The deep stretch and sense of calm is a welcome reprieve from the daily stress of modern living.
If you were like me when I started my yoga journey, you also wondered why headstands were so popular in yoga. To me, they seemed like a whole lot of effort for little return. I mean, didn’t we leave handstands behind in grade school? Like once our body weight went from double digits to triple digits, didn’t it make sense to just stop doing cartwheels and backflips?
But 5,000 years of yoga can’t be wrong. And no matter where I went, whether it was traditional or hot yoga, Hatha or Iyengar, in a studio or a park, I couldn’t get away from these more advanced inversions. The more I went to yoga and saw yogis who could lift themselves, the more I wanted to try. Slowly but surely, I would be able to lift a toe off the ground when I was in crow pose and then a foot and well, one day, both feet. But I still didn’t know why we did it.
All the other poses made sense. I was stretching a muscle that had been tight or I was using my core to maintain my balance, but headstands seem to put a lot of pressure on my hands and head. I could understand the sense of achievement one could get from lifting their entire body weight and the blood rushing to the head would feel good too, but for what end? Then, I decided to surrender to the process, and I learned that these inversions are a gift to humanity.
An inversion is considered any pose that requires the head to be below the heart. Examples are headstands, handstands, and forearm stands, but even downward dog and bridge poses are also inversions. Luckily, there is equipment like blocks and straps to assist you in getting into these positions.
How do inversions make you feel young?
Increases blood flow
Getting more blood flow to your brain increases the amount of oxygen and nutrients available to process tasks that require focus, concentration, and analysis.
There are inversions that are invigorating and energizing like handstands and headstands, which are known as hot inversions. There are also relaxing inversions like shoulder stands and legs up the wall. These are known as cooling poses and stimulate the parasympathetic nervous system, which helps calm us and leave us feeling peaceful.
Due to muscle contractions and gravity, inversions also stimulate the lymphatic system that moves toxins through the body.
Requires Even More Presence and Patience
Yoga requires a fair amount of presence and patience to hold the most basic of poses. Inversions invite an increased sense of awareness of our bodies and surroundings. Since learning how to walk as a child, we’ve grown accustomed to balancing with our feet. So much so, that we may forget how much balance it takes to be vertical. When we invert ourselves, we are back to square one.
Strengthens Our Upper Bodies
Inversions require us to put more weight and pressure on our hands, shoulders, chest, and abs, making our upper body and core get stronger.
Gives a Fresh Perspective
It takes a willing attitude to begin the journey of incorporating inversions, which will make you see the world from a different angle. This uncommon view can give us a refreshing, new way of looking and processing what we see.
Confidence makes everyone attractive. We are drawn to confident people. Inversions are challenging poses that give a great sense of accomplishment which in turn increases confidence. When the stress and anxiety of daily life strike, a shoulder stand can do the trick.
It’s very likely that when we attempt inversions we will fall once or twice (or 100!) as we get the hang of it. We learn non-attachment and perseverance on our road to yoga mastery.
This list is just a few of the benefits that inversions provide. It’s always recommended to begin with some gentle yoga poses and work your way up to more advanced positions. Hopefully, with time and perseverance, inversions will be a pose you look forward to during your practice.