Yoga Inversions Guide: Yoga Inversions Explained
By: Steph Ball-Mitchell, E-RYT-500, RPYT, RCYT, YACEP
I wanted to create a yoga inversions guide because yoga inversions are one of the most popular practices in a yoga class. Not only can inversions be a fun and challenging way to grow your yoga practice, but they also provide many mental and physical health benefits. Learning how to engage in inversions safely and what inversions are best for your body is essential for both beginner and advanced yoga students.
In this article, we will go over the basics of yoga inversions, why yoga inversions are good for you, the best yoga inversions for beginners, and a few additional safety considerations and tips for yoga inversions to support your personal practice. So, relax into a calming legs-up-the-wall pose, and let’s explore the wonderful world of inversions together!
Yoga inversions are essentially any yoga pose that involves placing your head below your heart, which inverts your body from your typical upright position. Yoga inversions can be more advanced in the form of handstands and headstands, or they can be more gentle and supported in the form of legs up the wall or waterfall pose.
Additionally, some poses like downward facing dog pose or dolphin pose may not appear to be inversions, but they actually are due to how your head is positioned below your hips. Yoga inversions, both literally and figuratively, give you a different perspective by flipping your awareness and shifting the flow of energy and blood throughout your body.
One of the leading causes of various mental and physical health issues is poor blood circulation, inflammation, and stagnation. When energy, blood, nutrients, lymph, or any nutrients in your body become stuck or stagnated in a particular area, this can lead to a build-up of toxins and reduced flow in that specific region, which can lead to inflammation and other issues over time.
Yoga inversions directly support your blood circulation, release stagnation, and lower inflammation by physically shifting the flow of energy in your body using the power of gravity. Gravity is a great force that is constantly pushing us down toward the earth, helping us stay grounded and rooted in our bodies. But sometimes, the weight of gravity can prevent blockages from clearing out, and engaging in yoga inversions helps shift the flow of gravity on your body and support the movement of energy, blood, lymph, nutrients, and oxygen to different regions.
Yoga inversions are one of the most unique yoga practices that directly cause a mental and physical shift by inverting the flow of circulation in your body. Some of the mental and physical benefits of yoga inversions include:
· Increases blood circulation
· Strengthens muscles
· Relieves stress, anxiety, and tension
· Reduces headaches
· Calms the mind
· Supports lymph drainage
· Improves immunity
· Energizes the body and mind
· Enhances balance
· Builds confidence
· Provides a new perspective
· Builds core strength
· Reduces insomnia
· Increase cognitive functioning and focus
· Supports spinal health
On a deeper spiritual level, yoga inversions are also considered one of the most essential practices to support the awakening of kundalini energy, clear out blockages in your chakras, and support the free flow of prana or lifeforce energy through your nadis or energy channels. Advanced traditional yogis frequently practiced yoga inversions as a form of tapasya or a spiritual austerity to support their reach toward enlightenment and higher states of consciousness.
When people hear about yoga inversions, they often assume that it is a practice they could never benefit from and that it is only for advanced yoga students. But that couldn’t be farther from the truth! Yoga inversions are excellent for both beginner and advanced students; the important thing is to know which yoga inversions are best for you. Below we will review some of the 5 best yoga inversions for beginners!
1. Downward Facing Dog Pose (Adho Mukha Svanasana)
Downward facing dog pose is often considered the quintessential yoga pose because you would likely be hard-pressed to find a yoga class where this pose isn’t practiced! Many people don’t realize that this pose is actually a yoga inversion. Downward facing dog pose is a gentle foundational yoga pose that yoga students of all levels can begin to practice and gain the benefits of inversions.
2. Dolphin Pose (Ardha Pincha Mayurasana)
Dolphin pose provides similar benefits to downward facing dog pose in how it is offered as a yoga inversion for beginners. This yoga pose is also commonly used as a way to build strength in the upper body as you transition to exploring more advanced yoga inversions, like a headstand.
3. Bridge Pose (Setu Bandhasana)
Bridge pose is another gentle yoga inversion that is excellent for yoga students of all levels. This yoga pose can also be an excellent transition to the candlestick pose, which is a gentle variation of the shoulder stand pose. You can opt for the restorative version using a block underneath your hips, or you can use the bridge pose to continue building strength in your body as you prepare for a full shoulder stand pose.
4. Legs Up the Wall Pose (Viparita Karani)
Legs up the wall pose is one of the most popular restorative yoga poses that is actually a gentle inversion. For a deeper experience of an inversion, you can gradually add higher props underneath your hips to raise your chest towards your chin and further invert your body over time.
5. Headstand Pose – at the wall (Shirshasana)
Headstand pose is considered a more advanced yoga inversion. But beginners can begin to explore the headstand at the wall. The first step to starting a safe headstand is to get proper guidance in the positioning of your arms and hands, and then slowly try walking your feet towards your head and invert your upper body against the wall. You may want to try this with a qualified yoga teacher first before trying to kick up on your own to ensure that you practice safely.
Yoga inversions are generally considered safe, but there are some key considerations when yoga inversions may not be the best idea.
· Eye Issues: People with glaucoma, myopia, or a detached retina may want to avoid yoga inversions due to the added pressure that these practices put on blood circulation into the upper body.
· High Blood Pressure: If you struggle with high blood pressure, yoga inversions may increase your blood pressure temporarily, which can be potentially dangerous.
· Circulatory Issues: Since yoga inversions directly influence your blood circulation, people with any form of circulatory issues may be at a higher risk during these practices.
· Lymphedema in the Upper Body: Yoga inversions are generally beneficial for lymphedema, but when lymph is stagnated in the upper body, inversions can potentially increase the swelling.
· History of Stroke or Heart Disease: Since yoga inversions influence blood circulation, this can potentially put a higher risk of dislodging blood clots or putting added pressure on the heart.
· Diabetes: Many individuals with diabetes also have ocular issues, so they may need to avoid yoga inversions due to the added pressure they can put on the eyes.
· Pregnancy: Yoga inversions often have a higher risk of injury, so it is generally advised to avoid yoga inversions during pregnancy unless they have been a strong part of your yoga practice previously.
· During Menstruation: Some yoga traditions do not advise practicing yoga inversions during menstruation as it does not support the energetic flow of blood out of the body, but there is currently no scientific research to support this claim, and it is highly debated.
But in many of these cases, gentle yoga inversions like downward facing dog pose are generally considered safe as the inversion is minor, and often these poses are only held for a few breaths. Regardless, it is always better to be on the safe side and defer to your doctor or a qualified yoga therapist for further guidance.
Yoga inversions are a lot more common than you realize. See below for a brief list of some of the most commonly practiced yoga inversions:
· Headstand Pose (Shirshasana)
· Handstand Pose (Adho Mukha Vrksasana)
· Legs Up the Wall Pose (Viparita Karani)
· Downward Facing Dog Pose (Adho Mukha Svanasana)
· Dolphin Pose (Ardha Pincha Mayurasana)
· Shoulderstand Pose (Sarvangasana)
· Forward Fold Pose (Uttanasana)
· Crow Pose (Kakasana)
· Feathered Peacock Pose (Pincha Mayurasana)
· Bridge Pose (Setu Bandhasana)
· Plough Pose (Halasana)
· Wheel Pose (Urdhva Dhanurasana)
· Puppy Pose (Utthana Shishosana)
Remember to explore these yoga inversions with the guidance of a trained yoga teacher to ensure that you do these practices safely. Yoga inversions are very beneficial and a fun way to explore your body, but they must also be practiced with care and consideration!
There are many different ways to practice yoga inversions, providing benefits to people of all ages and abilities. Whether you are ready to flip up into a handstand or prefer a more restorative bridge pose inversion, there is truly something for everyone to explore inversions in their yoga practice! When practicing inversions, it is essential to keep in mind safety considerations and get guidance from a qualified yoga teacher to support you along the way.
In our online yoga teacher training courses, we dive deeper into various yoga inversions, giving you all the techniques and tools you need to strengthen your own yoga inversion practice and safely teach your students how to practice yoga inversions as well. Yoga inversions are one of the most exciting practices, and by becoming a qualified yoga teacher online, you can support your students in this exploration in no time! Reach out to us for more information on how you can join our online 200hr yoga teacher training course.