If there is a type of asana that you should always include in your practice this is: an inversion! For many people the word inversion automatically triggers and aversion/fear response, and the monkey mind starts thinking about acrobatic impossible postures that one could see in the circus. But an inversion it doesn´t need to be scary to be beneficial. The only thing you really need to benefit from practising inversions is to the have the heart higher than the head.
The most accessible inversions for everyone include:
– Uttanasana or forward fold
– Viparita Karani or legs up the wall
If you are an advanced yogi you can also go for Pincha Mayurasana (forearm stand) or Adho Mukha Vrksasana (handstand), and all the variations you can think of.
Why should we always include an inversion in our practice?
Practising inversions has countless benefits, but here are the two most important benefits that you should know:
1. Improve blood and lymph circulation
Contrary to common belief and unless you have high blood pressure, the blood flow to the head stays the same during inversions. However, practising inversions improves the blood and lymph flow to the rest of the body. In the circulatory system (arteries, veins, vessels and heart), an inversion with aid the return of the deoxygenated blood to the heart. The lymphatic system is part of the circulatory system but unlike it, it doesn’t count with a pump (the heart), therefore by getting upside down we allow the lymph to return to the lymph nodes faster, where the toxins will be eliminated.
2. Effects on the nervous system
Inversions have really important effects on the nervous system. Whilst more active inversions (headstands, forearm stands and handstands) stimulate the nervous system, energising and activating the body, bringing focus; passive inversions (Viparita Karani, legs up the wall) stimulate another part of the nervous system, the parasympathetic nervous system: the rest and digest response. Therefore, practising them relaxes, cools down, stimulates digestion, and gets you ready for bed!
Before practising an inversion
Avoid inversions if you have high blood pressure
Although inversions have countless benefits, these group of asanas should be avoided if you have head injuries, high blood pressure or glaucoma. If you suffer from these conditions you could benefit from practising gentler asanas like child’s pose, where the heart is just a bit higher than the head. If you are pregnant just do what feels good and was already in your practice, simply avoid trying new things.
Turning upside down can be very exciting, but before you start jumping around, make sure you have:
– Learnt the asana that you want to practice from a teacher
– Warmed up properly
– Got someone who can help you around or a clear wall to support you
– Cleared the space in the room to avoid falling into things
Practice and all is coming
Don’t be too harsh on yourself, practice ahimsa in the form of self love and self compassion. Yoga is about the journey rather than about a final goal. Certain inversions only come after years of practice and there is no point obsessing over one asana. But don’t give up! Keep trying, keep a strong and steady practice and all will come.
Ari Gador Yoga
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