Like it or not, we live in a culture that promotes competition, achievement and glory-seeking. Just look towards our Insta pages – we are all guilty of showing off pictures of our latest achievement in the Parkrun, our child’s gold medal for football and our satisfied faces after a 20-mile hike. Rather than just being happy with our own internal satisfaction, we seek appreciation and praise from others for our own achievements.
Therefore, it’s no wonder that when it comes to our yoga practice, inversions seem to be the postures that people strive to accomplish the most. Sirsasana (Headstand) and Sarvangasana (Shoulder stand) are sexy poses—physically challenging and visually impressive. BUT, and this is a big BUT, they shouldn’t be entered into lightly.
Start small to get the benefits
An inversion in yoga is any pose where the hips are higher than the heart, and there is an inverted pose for every yogi – no matter where you are in your practice. Take for example Legs up the wall pose or Downward Facing Dog. These are great postures to allow your body to become used to the feelings and sensations that come with being inverted and offer all the same benefits of the more challenging postures. Our Child’s Pose offers the gentlest form of inversion, with the hips only marginally above the heart.
This is a very relaxing posture and can be practised almost anywhere as and when you need it!
The benefits of inversions have been well documented. When we are upside down we give our heart a well-deserved rest. The blood flows far easier to our heart and heads this way, so our blood pressure and heart rate are lowered naturally. Being upside down also means that our circulation can be improved. Congestion around the body can be cleared and waste can be cleansed in places where there are blockages. Balance, energy and mental focus can all be improved with regular inversion practice, providing you get into the postures with care and consideration. You may even find it helps to use props and bolsters to assist you.
But, don’t take inversions lightly
Inversions are generally safe, but in truth, it really depends on the person performing the pose. Anyone with spine, neck or head injuries as well as high blood pressure, should take extra precautions and consult their medical practitioner first before attempting any kind of yoga practice. Inversions should also be avoided if you are pregnant, and also during your monthly period as inverting the body (and the uterus) could potentially disturb the natural movement of your flow (although many yoga teachers differ in their thought process on this point!)
Even for those healthy and regular-practising yogis, precautions should still be taken before performing an inversion. Students up and down the UK are enthusiastically practising Headstand and Shoulder stand in drop-in classes once a week, without giving it any thought at all. But, this could potentially be a recipe for disaster unless the yogi practising takes on board all the safety factors themselves beforehand. At the end of the day, it’s down to you to manage your yoga practice yourself and approach each pose in the right way to suit your body. Listen to how you are feeling on that exact day, listen to your body and believe what it is telling you to do. If in doubt, ask your yoga teacher or go easy with baby steps and gradually work yourself upside down safely than go for it with the aim of getting praise from everyone else in the class!!!