Wednesday, January 28, 2015

5 reasons to love inversions


Inversions are a funny thing. I’ve noticed that I go through a series of emotions when I am asked to do a headstand or handstand in class. 

First emotion: intimidation. Can I do it? Do I feel up for it today? What if I fall over?
Once I am in the position, ready to go, I just surrender to the anticipation and go for it. 

Second emotion: determination. I can do this! I’m so close, look how I high I got my leg! Once you are finally upside down, that illuminating feeling of YES I DID IT takes over. Then you are there, and all you can do is focus on not falling over. 

I’ve come to love inversions and the different emotions that come with them. Yesterday while upside down in class, I had a realization: I didn’t actually know why I was upside down. I know that it's good for me, but I didn’t know what the specifics were behind this supposed goodness. I decided to do some investigating and found some interesting facts on inversions. Whether you are a masterful teacher or a beginner Yogi, these are compelling benefits to think about next time you're upside down. 
Zuna Yogis get inverted

Immune strengthening
The most powerful thing I discovered about inversions is their ability to increase immunity and to detox the body. In particular, inverting affects the lymphatic system, which includes the tonsils, adenoids, spleen, and thymus. The sole purpose of these organs and glands is to fight infections by filtering out bacteria, cancer cells and foreign cells that could be harmful to your body. What is unique about the lymphatic system is that it flows in only one direction – upwards from the stomach to your neck. When you practice inversion asanas, you assist your lymphatic system by helping it flow in the right direction, draining your body of toxins and bacteria.

Circulation 
When the temperature drops, do your fingers and toes ever go numb? This is due to poor blood circulation. Going upside down reverses the blood flow through your whole body and recharges your system. It gives your heart a mini vacation and lets gravity do some work for a change. When you're right side up again, the blood can easily flow to all the little corners of your body, like your fingers and toes. 

Brain Boost 
When your head is lower than your heart, gravity rushes blood and oxygen to your brain. It revitalizes that beautiful organ and improves concentration and memory.

Energy
Specifically, you'll feel peppier if you choose a handstand asana, supported headstand or forearms balance. These types of inversions work your core and arm muscles. They generate a deeper breath and create heat within the body, naturally energizing your system.

Legs up the wall
Relaxation
Asanas such as supported shoulder stand and legs up the wall have a calming effect on the nervous system. They allow your blood to circulate without causing heat. These poses are great after a stressful day or just before bed if you're feeling stimulated and are having a difficult time falling asleep.

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These are just a few ways that inversions help strengthen and soothe the body and mind. Remember, you don't have to master handstand or other advanced (and scary) balancing inversions to get the benefits of these poses. Even down dog, a pose taught in most basic yoga classes, is a wonderful inversion. And legs up the wall pose is accessible even on your worst day. Make getting upside down a regular part of your own practice. Your heart, mind and lymph nodes will thank you.

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