Let’s Get Upside Down: The Benefits of Practicing Yoga Inversions

By Kara Reynolds | Jan 25, 2016

Seeing the phrase “yoga inversions” may conjure mental images of impossible gravity-defying poses. In reality, an inversion is any pose that puts your head below your heart. That doesn’t sound nearly as scary, does it?

These poses can fit into anyone’s practice: Even beginners can do inversions easily and safely. Check out some of the benefits of adding inversions to your daily yoga practice.

Boost Your Immunity

The lymphatic system plays a huge role in keeping our body healthy. Going upside down can help lymph fluid move through the body, picking up toxins and bacteria to be destroyed by your body. To get started boosting your immune system, try warming up and going into a gentle inversion like putting your legs up a wall.

  • Get into this pose by lying down, turning to one side and moving towards the wall so your bottom is flat against the wall. Slowly roll onto your back, swinging your legs over and up so they lie flat up the wall. Stay in this pose as long as is comfortable for you. Five to 15 minutes are recommended.

Improve Your Digestion

Flipping upside down reverses the pull of gravity on your body, digestive organs included. The change in pressure can help release any gas trapped in the digestive system and may help move out old waste. Did you know that “Downward Facing Dog” is actually an inversion? If you have carpal tunnel syndrome, you may wants to skip “downward facing dog.” Otherwise, you can go into this pose after warming up.

  • Start on hands and knees on your mat, knees below your hips and hands slightly forward of the shoulders. Spread your fingers wide and tuck your toes under. After exhaling, lift your knees from the floor, pushing up and back while lengthening the spine. Stretch your heels towards the floor, straightening your knees but not locking them. Stay in this pose for one to three minutes.

Relieve Fluid Buildup in Legs

If you struggle with fluid retention, getting your legs in the air for a few minutes can be a great way to remedy this. A supported shoulder stand is a great way to get your feet off the ground and help your body deal with that fluid retention.

  • Begin by placing firm, folded blankets on the mat to support your shoulders, lie on the blankets with your head on the floor. Lay your arms on the floor beside your torso with palms down. Bend your knees and bring your feet to rest close to the sitting bones. Exhale while pressing your arms into the floor, pushing your feet away from the floor and drawing thighs into the torso.
  • Bring your knees towards your face, bending your elbows and drawing them towards each other while bringing your hands to rest on your back. Walk your hands up your back and lift your knees towards the ceiling, straightening legs as you go. Hold pose for 30 seconds.

Improve Blood Flow to Your Brain

The rush of blood to your head can improve mental function. Your blood carries oxygen and nutrients to your body, so flipping upside down can give a boost of nutrients to your head — eyes included. One of the biggest barriers to doing inversions is a fear of face-planting right into the mat, but inversions like “plow pose” remove that fear from the equation.

  • Lie flat on your back with legs extended and arms at your side with palms down. Inhale and use your abdominal muscles to draw legs and hips up towards the ceiling with torso perpendicular to the floor. Straighten your legs and slowly lower toes towards the floor. If toes don’t touch the floor, use your hands to support your back. If your toes comfortably touch the floor, extend your arms and interlace your fingers. Hold this pose for up to five minutes.

Relieve Stress

Stress is a killer: It can take a huge toll on your overall health, so anything that soothes your mind while also being good for your body is a no-brainer for everyday wellness. Taking a few minutes to relax and let your body unwind is a perfect stress-buster you can do in a short amount of time. “Happy baby” is a gentle pose that is excellent for destressing and clearing your mind.

  • Begin flat on your back, exhale and bring knees towards your belly. Inhale and reach to grip the outsides of your feet. Open your knees to be slightly wider than your torso and pull knees towards the armpits. Position ankles directly over the knees, flex your feet and push your feet into your hands while using hands to gently pull. Stay in this pose as long as you want.

Adding inversions to your practice can improve your health both mentally and physically. With so many easy poses, there’s no reason for you not to spend a little time upside down every day.

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