Turn your world upside down

In yoga, an inversion is defined as any pose that takes the heart above the head. Inverted asanas are an extremely important group of postures. The more challenging advanced asanas like handstand, headstand, and forearm stand might come to mind at first, but down dog, standing forward fold, dolphin, shoulder stand, and legs-up-the-wall pose are all gentler variations of inversions that provide the same benefits. There is an inversion for every practice, every fitness level, and for every part of your natural cycle and rhythms of practice. These postures can be highly therapeutic, healing, and come with an abundance of health and emotional benefits. Headstands can be contraindicative if you have neck injuries, extremely high blood pressure, ear and eye problems, if you are menstruating, or have acid reflux.

Ten reasons on why you should turn your world upside down:

Face your fear – There is a lot of fear associated with going upside down. Literally, you flip your world upside down. Face your fears of bringing your feet above your head on the mat and we can learn to bring this fearlessness off the mat into our lives to live up to our utmost potential. As B.K.S. Iyengar says in his section on Sirsasana in Light on Yoga, “The best way to overcome fear is to face with equanimity the situation of which one is afraid.” Fortunately, disorientation in headstand subsides fairly quickly. With regular practice, you can begin to experience the benefits, which led the yogis to call Sirsasana the “King of Asanas.”

Refresh – By flipping upside down, you encourage your fluids to rush to the heart and brain via gravity giving your heart a break. With nutrients and blood flow flooding the brain, mental functions like concentration, processing skills and memory are improved.

Strengthen your immune system – The lymphatic system is responsible for waste removal, fluid balance, and immune system response. The lymphatic system is analogous to a sewage system: an intricate, underground network tied to every house in town, which keeps the citizens healthy. Because the lymphatic system is a closed pressure system and has one-way valves that keep lymph moving towards the heart, when one turns upside down, the entire lymphatic system is stimulated, thus strengthening your immune system. Inversions also bring benefits to the three other major systems of the body: the endocrine, cardiovascular, and nervous systems.

Energize – When 3pm hits and you run into that wall becoming sluggish and tired, skip your midday shot of espresso and get uprooted. When blood flow rushes to the brain it can serve you like a natural, caffeine-free way of tapping into cabins of internal energy.

Relax – While stronger inversions such as headstand and handstand energize, the gentler variations such as legs-up-the-wall pose and shoulder stand work to calm the nervous system by activating the parasympathetic nervous system. If your body had a fire department, it would be called the parasympathetic nervous system. When the PNS kicks in, the heart rate slows, breath slows, and a sense of calmness and peace invade your whole being.

Strength and balance – In order to hold strong inversions like headstand and handstand it is critical to hug into the midline of your body. The bulky exterior muscles of the body don’t help out as much here. These stronger inversions help you to strengthen those finer, deeper core muscles that hug the skeleton. All inversions will help you with core strength, balance, stability, and endurance. When you can learn to balance upside down, balancing right side up will become a piece of cake.

Become happier – When going upside down, the adrenal glands are flushed and detoxified, pouring negative thoughts out of the head, cultivating more positive thoughts. Also, when the feet go over the head, the brain releases feel-good chemicals like serotonin and endorphins. If you battle with depression, going upside down will help to put a smile on your face.

Change your perspective – Going upside down gives you a whole new perspective on life. Inversions teach that there is always another way to approach even the toughest of situations.

Get into the moment – When you are upside down, you must focus entirely on what you are doing; if you don’t, timberrrrr. It’s hard to think about your to-do list or your personal problems when you are uprooted. Your mind has to become one-pointed and your problems, fears, and doubts will drain out of your skull. Inversions are like an express route to quieting the mind.

Playtime – Inversions can bring out the innate inner child trapped inside the adult mind. We can become so serious on our mats and become trapped in the adult mentality. Flipping over is a great way to bring out your inner child.

If you are new to yoga, take your time before inverting – a year is not too long. Work closely with an observant and knowledgeable teacher. Attend class regularly. Learn the fundamentals.

There is no better place to learn how to go upside down than with Jess Bichler during Flight School.

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