Downside Up

Why do we practice inversions in yoga? When should I practice them and when should I hold off?
DSC03452 (1).jpg

As a yoga teacher, I get a lot of questions about inversions so I’m really happy you asked! Inversions are poses in which your legs and hips are higher than your heart. A few common inversions are headstand, shoulder stand and legs-up-the-wall. Inversions are tricky because while the usual response of “listen to your body” definitely applies here, there are some instances in which inverting is not recommended.

If you have any of the following conditions, inversions are contraindicated for you:

  • Detached retina

  • Cervical spine injuries

  • Late term pregnancy (highly debated)

  • Day 1 -3 of your menstrual cycle (also debated)

  • Low blood pressure

  • Frequent migraine headaches  

  • Heart issues

The reason some women don’t invert during menstruation and late pregnancy is due to an internal force called apana vayu. Apana vayu is downward moving life-force energy and we all have it. Apana vayu assists our body in defecation, urination, labor and menstruation, but it also helps us to feel grounded and connected to the earth. When our body is menstruating or preparing for pregnancy there is a lot of energy moving down toward the earth. These are big projects for a female body and in some cases, when we flip everything over, it can interrupt the project.

So why even bother with all this upside down craziness?!? Here are the benefits of inverting:

  • Shoulder strengthening

  • Tones the abdominals

  • Moves lymphatic fluid and stimulates our glands

  • Wonderful for digestion

  • Can be uplifting, good for depression

  • Can also be calming

  • Changes perspective

My favorite reason for inverting is a concept called pratikpaksa bhavana which translates to: cultivating opposites. When we turn upside down we are seeing the world from the opposite angle. With changed perspective we can look at tendencies and thought patterns with new eyes - an AMAZING way to catch ourselves when we suffer from negative thinking, worry or doubt.

Let’s try it right now….

Consider a recurring thought pattern or doubt that you’ve been struggling with:

“I am terrible in social situations and always feel like I say the wrong thing.”

Now consider the precise opposite thought pattern:

“I am a social butterfly and everyone always thinks I’m witty and fun.”

Although you may not completely believe your “new” perspective right off the bat, often the drastic discrepancy between the 2 is so extreme that it will snap you out of the thought. You may even find humor in it! Realistically we all probably fall somewhere in the middle of the two extremes which is why it’s only fair to consider both sides!

Hope that answers your question! If you want to get deeper into the topic just let us know!