There’s a reason I’m a yoga teacher: because I really believe in the power of this practice. In other words, it works! Whether you’re practicing yoga for physical, mental, or emotional benefits- I’m sure you won’t be disappointed.
After all, yoga has been around for thousands of years. And something with that kind of street cred has to have some clout to it, right?!
One of my favorite things about the yoga practice is that there are so many different styles, shapes, and ideologies that come along with it. That means there really is a yoga practice for everyone. And even if mine looks different than yours, it’s still yoga. How cool is that?
Within all styles of yoga, there are a variety of yoga poses that you’ll be working with, and inversions are one of them. I know the idea of inverting, or getting upside down can seem scary at first. But don’t worry! There are a lot of gentle inversions that don’t involve you standing on your hands, or other difficult poses.
This post will share what exactly inversions in yoga are, the benefits of inversions, and how you can incorporate inversions into your yoga practice today.
What Are Inversion Yoga Poses
Inversions in yoga are postures where your heart and your hips are above your head. In other words, you’re going upside down…fun!
Inversions are different from standing balance postures, for instance, in that your perspective is shifted. Instead of being upright, you’re seeing the world from a new perspective. You’re seeing things upside down.
One of the greatest benefits of inversions is that perspective shift. Sometimes that’s just the trick to getting out of your mind, and into your body. Beyond that, inversions offer a chance to face your fears- as many people are afraid of going upside down.
Physical health benefits include: improve circulations, increase lymphatic system drainage, and often work with strengthening the core. While all inversions have the similarity of going upside down, they all require different activations and openings. All in all, they are a full body experience, tonifying and strengthening the body with every practice.
Before you try an inversion for the first time, be prepared to laugh at yourself, as you just might wobble or fall out. That’s okay! Try to maintain a childlike mind in your journey to confidence. Also, please don’t forget to breathe. It’s easy to hold our breath when something is physically challenging. And, chances are, you’re not used to a ton of blood rushing into your head. Make sure to unclench your jaw, and breathe in and out of the nose steadily.
Inversion yoga poses truly are for everyone. While there are some arguments against women on their period practicing inversions, I find that to be dated and inaccurate. Plus, there are all kinds of inversions you can practice, you don’t have to jump straight into handstand. Whether you’re pregnant, brand new to yoga, or a seasoned practitioner- inversions are something you can practice daily.
Benefits Of Inversion Yoga Poses
The benefits of inversions are plentiful. And the benefits of these postures can be seen and felt on a physical, mental, and emotional level.
Inversions are great at improving circulation, because the blood flow reverses from its usual pattern of flowing down into the feet. Instead, the blood rushes to the heart and the head.
Think about how swollen your feet might get on a long flight- that’s a sign you might not have the best circulation. Not only will compression socks help, but also a long-holding inversion once you land at your destination will be greatly helpful to de-swell your feet, too.
Our core is our center, so finding strength in this area is something that offers a stabilizing force to our everyday way of being. Learning inversions isn’t about getting a shredded six pack abs, but rather about functional strength that helps you navigate your daily life with confidence. Strengthening the core can also help to increase overall energy levels.
Inversion poses are a great way to challenge our balance as we go upside down. Balancing can be hard enough when we’re standing upright on our feet, imagine how tricky it can be once you turn it all around. Improving your balance works hand-in-hand with strengthening your core. Working on balance is helpful in reducing high blood pressure, as well.
When you’re working on balancing, you’re forced to improve your focus, as well. Otherwise, you might fall…which is totally okay too, by the way. Fixing your gaze on a non-moving object is a helpful way to maintain focus while you’re balancing in inversions, or any kind of balancing yoga pose.
It’s so easy to get stuck in our own rigid way of doing things, isn’t it? One of the best ways to get out of our own mental loop of thoughts, or our own stuck patterns is to switch things up. Sometimes that involves literally turning things upside down. While it can be scary at first, eventually this allows the nervous system to soothe and regulate.
Facing fears helps to build confidence. Are you afraid of going upside down? Don’t worry, you’re not alone! Most of my students have this same fear. The beauty of facing these fears is that confidence lives on the other side of fear. You just have to reach for it.
5 Easy Inversion Yoga Poses
Remember, not all yoga inversions have to involve you standing on your hands or your head! Handstand, forearm stand, and headstand can all come later on in your practice once you’ve mastered the foundations.
These 5 yoga inversions are super simple to accessibility integrate into your practice as early as today. It’s time to practice inversions!
Chances are you, your yoga class is going to start in Child’s Pose. That just goes to show how accessible this shape truly is! This pose offers the body a chance to relax, as the low back releases, and the stomach compresses to the thighs. The greatest sensation will likely be in your low back, so feel free to rest your forehead onto a block if the ground feels too far away.
- Start kneeling with knees under hips and toes untucked. Take an inhale.
- As you exhale, hinge at the hips to fold forward over your thighs.
- Option to keep the knees as wide as the hips, or open them nice and wide in order to open more into the hips.
Legs Up The Wall
You can practice Legs up the Wall with or without a wall. If you want to stay for a long time in this shape, then I suggest using the wall for support. This is a great way to decompress after a long flight, as the swelling and blood flows out of the feet and into the heart. This pose is also a great preparation posture for Plow Pose and Shoulder Stand later on.
- Lie on your back. If you want to use the wall, shimmy your bum up to the edge of the wall. If not, simply lie flat. Breathe in to remind length through the whole spine.
- As you exhale, extend your legs one at a time, or both together. If you’re on the wall, then the weight of the legs will rest into the wall.
- Keep breathing, and feel free to bend your knees a little or a lot. Eventually work them towards straight.
- Still breathing, if you’re not using the wall, feel free to use your hands behind your thighs for support.
This has to be one of my favorite poses, and one that I do all the time in between my work day. Forward Fold offers such a sweet release for the low back, as well as plenty of length along the backs of the legs. Plus, it provides gentle core activation.
- Start standing with feet as wide as your hips. Take an inhale, and sweep your arms up and overhead, looking up.
- With the exhale, begin to dive forward and down, hinging at the hips, keeping the spine long to fold. Let the hands settle anywhere that’s comfortable once you’re at the depth of your fold.
- Keep breathing where you land, making sure to bump the weight forward in your feet, while still spiking down through your heels. Feel free to take a few sways from side to side.
- You can always rest your hands onto a yoga block if it doesn’t feel good for arms and hands to dangle in space.
Downward Facing Dog
You’ll see Downward Facing Dog in just about every Vinyasa class you stumble into. Even a beginner’s class. While there’s a lot going on in Downward Facing Dog, it’s still a shape that most beginners can at least attempt, even if they’re not able to hold it for too long just yet. This post will help to strengthen your shoulders, open your hamstrings, tonify your core, and improve your balance.
- Start in Table Top on hands and knees. Inhale to tuck your toes underneath you and lift your belly up and in.
- As you exhale, find Downdog by lifting your knees off the mat, and lift your hips skywards. Press into your hands so that your body makes an inverted V shape.
- Keep breathing where you land, making sure all 10 fingers fan out nice and wide, and look back between your legs so that your head and neck are heavy.
- Still breathing, feel free to keep the bent a little or a lot as you feel into the backs of the legs.
Dolphin Pose is the most challenging of the 5 postures listed here. So, if you find it to be a lot for your shoulders to take, then take time in Downward Facing Dog first to build the proper strength in your shoulders. Remember, you can always modify this pose by interlacing your hands, instead of keeping the forearms parallel to one another.
- Start in Table Top on hands and knees, and take an inhale here to remind plenty of length through the spine.
- With the exhale, lower your forearms onto the ground, so that your elbows replace your handprints.
- Remember, you can always interlace your hands here if you’re tighter in the chest, or need more stability. Otherwise, keep the forearms parallel at shoulder’s distance.
- Breathe in, tuck the tuck underneath you and lift the belly up and in.
- Exhale to Dolphin Pose, by lifting the knees and lifting the hips just like Downdog. You land in an inverted V shape.
- Keep breathing, and stay right here. Or, walk your toes up towards your elbows. You’ll feel more in the backs of the legs the closer your feet are to your arms.
- Still breathing, bend the knees a little or a lot. Make sure to press the ground away from you with your forearms, so the sides of the neck are long.
There you have it my friends, you’re ready to start inverting today.