Turning Your World Upside Down — In A Good Way

With school, work, children, and a barrage of too many other responsibilities, life often feels like it’s turning upside down. Turning yourself physically upside down can actually make a positive impact in every aspect of life. Inversion exercises come with multiple benefits for both physical and mental health and can be achieved through yoga or using special equipment such as an inversion table or chair.

“Just as yoga gently encourages us to move away from any unconscious habitual patterns, the invitation to invert is simply another way by which to shake things up, step out of rut,” says Miriah Wall from Yoganonymous.

headstand-photo-courtesy-of-a4gpa

One of the easiest ways to practice inversions is by practicing yoga. Inversions count as any of the poses that lift your heart and/or feet above your head. This includes some of the more difficult poses like headstands and forearm balances as well as some of the basic yoga poses like downward facing dog. It can also be as easy as resting your legs up against a wall while lying on your back. Anyone from the most experienced yogis to the novices can reap the rewards.

downward-dog-dave-rosenblum_daverose215
Courtesy of Dave Rosenblum

One of the biggest benefits of inversion exercises is improved circulation by temporarily reversing the direction of gravity. Esther Ekhart from Ekhart Yoga explains that inversions help bring deoxygenated blood back to the heart. “Venous return relies on muscular movement and gravity to move the blood. Inversions (and aerobics) give it a helping hand, improving circulation. At the same time you are also helping the flow of oxygenated blood to the brain, sensory organs and the face,” says Ekhart.

Reversing blood flow also aids the brain in concentration and memory. “When the brain lacks a sufficient supply of blood, the body becomes slow and sluggish because the brain uses 25 percent of the body’s oxygen. Increasing blood flow nourishes brain cells with more oxygen resulting in improved concentration, memory and awareness,” say Gillian Mandich and Angela Peters from Chatelaine. Inversions are great for mental health because they also work as natural anti-depressants.

“Flushing the adrenal glands stimulates the release of neurotransmitters and endorphins that allow you to immediately feel uplifted and can counteract depression, mood swings and seasonal affective disorder,” add Mandich and Peters. Different poses can also help energize or relax the mind and body. Headstands and handstands are warming poses that energize and stimulate the body while shoulder stands or raising your legs against a wall are cooling poses that relieve stress and insomnia. One of the most effective ways to get the most benefits is by doing more difficult heating poses followed by a period of more relaxed cooling poses.

headstand-splits-lauren-nelson_lulieboo
Courtesy of Lauren-Nelson

Going upside down, whether it’s through a yoga pose or an inversion table or chair, can also stretch and relieve aching muscles and joints by releasing the stress of gravity. “When you are upright, whether standing or sitting, gravity is pulling you down. This can cause the joints — especially in your spine — to compress, causing pressure and sometimes pain,” says Jeff Herman from Live Strong. “When you invert, the gravitational pull is reversed, providing relief to the joints and muscles.” One of the most important parts of doing inversion exercises is a reminder to look at the world in new perspectives.

“As we become accustomed to reacting to our world in a predictable way, inversions teach us through metaphor that there is always another way to approach the situation/person/problem,” says Wall.

Most experts caution anyone with head injuries, neck injuries, high blood pressure, glaucoma, or a recent stroke to consult a doctor and be careful doing inversions.

Sources

Ekhart, E. (2013, November 27). All about Yoga Inversions. Retrieved October 28, 2016,
from https://www.ekhartyoga.com/blog/all-about-yoga-inversions
Herman, J. (2013, November 7). What Are the Benefits of Using Inversion Exercises?
Retrieved October 28, 2016, from http://www.livestrong.com/article/332552-what-are-the-benefits-of-using-inversion-exercises/
Mandich, G., & Peters, A. (2013, July 8). Six detoxifying health benefits of inversions.
Retrieved October 28, 2016, from http://www.chatelaine.com/health/wellness/the-health-benefits-of-inversions/
Wall, M. (2013, March 25). 10 Benefits of Yoga Inversions. Retrieved October 28, 2016,
from http://yoganonymous.com/10-benefits-of-yoga-inversions/

Written by Hannah Reasoner, Ramapo College Intern to Karen Ranzi, M.A.

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