Headstand, forearm stand, shoulderstand, and the beloved handstand, are all becoming more and more popular in the world of yoga. Thanks to social media platforms, these inverted poses have become a staple of any yogi account. Although yoga is not all about these strength and flexibility intense poses, being inverted does bring a whole array of benefits to the body and mind. So whether you are a beginner or an expert, practising this family of poses is a great way to add challenging but fun moves that will better your life.
Understanding how your body is in space - proprioception - and trusting yourself that no matter if you fall, you will be able to withstand it, bringing about a unique feeling of self-confidence.
What Are Inverted Poses? As you can imagine, an inverted pose in yoga is a pose in which your body is inverted. That means your head is down and your feet are up. However, that is a bit of a misconception because it alienates some poses. For example, with this definition, you will not consider Downward Facing Dog an inverted pose, even though it is.
A better definition is the H-H-H rule: a pose is an inversion when the hips are above the heart and the heart above the head. With this definition, poses like Down Dog are now part of the family of inverted poses. This is important to mention because it means you can get all the benefits from being upside down without having to be strong or agile enough to hold your feet off the ground. Everyone can do inverted poses, and everyone will benefit from them.
Remember, it is crucial to always listen to our body and take it easy - to go as far as the body feels comfortable and always to move with control. In more advanced inversions like handstands or headstands, the possibility of falling backwards is very high. So, we need to warm up properly, and if possible, learn how not to injure ourselves in case of a fall.
And last but not least, as with any physical practice, there are some contraindications. If you suffer from glaucoma, weak eyes, high blood pressure, heart problems, neck injuries, slipped discs or headaches, please consult a doctor before practising such poses. You should do the same if you have hernias, vertigo or pregnancy. They don’t necessarily mean you won’t be able to do them, but that you might have to add props or modify them accordingly to protect your body or to worsen any injury or creating anymore.
Now that you know what they are and how to practice them safely, let’s talk about some of their benefits:
- They make you more robust and more stable. Holding the weight of your body whilst you are upside down requires strength in your whole body. Your arms have to support almost all of your weight – depending on which inverted pose you are choosing – which is something they are not used to. This strength will come at a price: you will improve your posture and stabilise your shoulder joints - a cost we are all happy to pay. Additionally, you will be working your legs, abs, and back, which are hugely important in supporting and keeping your spine healthy.
- They improve your circulation and immunity. Being upside-down makes your body work extra hard into pumping the blood and lymphatic drainage in the opposite direction from what it has done all its life. This strengthening of the circulation of the lymph – which is the one in charge of cleaning out the toxins and residues in your body - is critical in improving your immunity.
- They help improve concentration and confidence. If you think about it, focusing your mind entirely on your body so that any tiny correction you must do so that you do not fall before time and with the appropriate strength, it requires a special kind of flow-state. Some even put inverted poses, especially the most balance-heavy ones (e.g. handstands), to the same level as meditation when it comes to mental training.
Additionally, these poses increase your energy levels and your confidence. Understanding how your body is in space - proprioception - and trusting yourself that no matter if you fall, you will be able to withstand it, bringing about a unique feeling of self-confidence.
Finally, all your body organs’ exposure – back-bends have this same effect – are, from an evolutionary perspective, something only strong and powerful animals would do. Because they know that they can take whatever life throws at them, they are not scared of showing such physical vulnerability. So, when being inverted, you are in a vulnerable position. Your mind-body connection infuses your mind with confidence, thinking that you must be exposing yourself like that because you have what it takes.
As you can see, inverted poses are much more than just a fantastic photo-op. They are a fun way to train your mind and body!