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It's a topsy turvy world sometimes!

Inversions, what is the big deal about them? Should we all be doing them or are they only for the benefit of looking fancy on social media posts? More traditionally thought of as the domain of the yoga world, inversions are actually any pose or exercise that takes your hips higher than your heart and your heart higher than your head. So, while typically we may think of inversions as headstands, shoulder stands and handstands there are actually many movements where this happens in both Pilates and yoga such as an inverted V / downward dog pose.

Inversions are believed to have a positive effect on many systems within the body including the cardiovascular, lymphatic, endocrine, digestive and nervous systems. Our body’s systems are sensitive to the effects of gravity because we consist of approximately 60% water, held in a complex matrix of vessels, valves, pumps, and porous membranes all dedicated to transporting, nourishing and cleansing our cells by moving fluids around. Thus gravity works on our bodies systems continuously but when we do an inversion many of our body’s systems are given a helping hand or a little break from the constant effects of gravity. Until recently there has been little interest in trying to objectively document the effects of specific yoga poses on our health and the scientific statistically powered evidence is still lacking however we do have a wealth of practitioner experience, educated reasoning and expert opinions which all lead us to believe in the huge benefits of a regular inversion practise.

So why are inversions so good for us? Here’s the top reasons I’ve found to explain why:

1. Improves circulation

Turning ourselves upside down encourages venous blood return, assisting blood to return from our extremities to the heart without relying on the assistance of muscular contractions that it normally does. Inversions give the heart a break from having to pump so hard to deliver oxygenated blood to the brain and the vital organs.

2. Recharges the lymphatic system

A strong and working lymphatic system is vital for good health as it is responsible for removal of waste products, fluid balances and immune responses. Filtering lymphatic fluid through our lymph nodes, it is like the waste disposal system of the body. Ordinarily the lymphatic system works by muscular movements, but inversions stimulate our lymphatic systems by flipping the effect of gravity, encouraging the flow of lymphatic fluid around the body, thus aiding the cleansing process.

(This is also why elevating your feet is recommended when you suffer from swollen ankles, as it assists the lymphatic system in draining the excess fluid.)

3. Creates a sense of focus and calm

Practising inversions can paradoxically have both an invigorating and a calming effect on the mind. They can take strength, concentration and focus, especially for balancing inversions. However, they can also invoke deep breathing and relaxation as your brain gets stimulated in a different position, cue your rest and digest parasympathetic nervous system activation. Additionally inversions can reduce muscle tension especially allowing the spine to elongate with the help of gravity rather than always fighting against it. After exiting from an inversion you often feel energised and rejuvenated.

4. Fun to do

It is fun to try new things and whilst certain inversions may not be suitable for all of us it is still fun to switch things up. Challenging ourselves with how we move our bodies or choose to relax and see things literally from a different perspective can be fun to do.

It is said that just 3-5mins of inversions daily can have a positive impact on your well being.

Here are a few to start trying which are fairly accessible to all:

(If you have high blood pressure, glaucoma or are concerned about your health, check with your healthcare provider first before doing inversions)

Downward dog / Inverted V (Adho Mukha Svanasana)

Focus on finding as much length in your spine as possible by reaching your tailbone to the sky and pushing the floor away with your hands.

Wide legged forward fold (Prasarita Padottanasana)

If your head doesn’t reach the floor you can always prop it up with a yoga block, or cushion for a more relaxing feel.

Shoulder Bridge (Setu Bandha)

For a more relaxing pose this can also be done supported with a yoga block or stack of books under the back of the pelvis. Why not try this position whilst reading or checking your phone for 5-10 mins in the evening.

Legs up the wall (Viparita Karani)

I saved this one for last because in my opinion it is the best one! It is like a secret weapon to feeling great, when you get a slump in energy levels especially late in the day or post travel try this one to naturally boost you. The legs could also be elevated against a chair with the shins resting on the seat, it is also good to place a bolster or cushion under the hips to elevate them slightly.

If I start to feel a headache or migraine looming I will take 10-15 mins in this pose and most times that will naturally prevent it for me!

All of these inversions are pretty accessible to most people so why not try one or two of them regularly for a few minutes a day and see how they make you feel. Then with consistent practice and attending some classes you could build up to more adventurous inversion practises, however as much as handstands and headstands are great fun for those who want to do them we don’t all need to be doing them at all, you will reap the benefit of inversions from these poses listed here.


Karen x


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