Why You Should Practice Inversions
Written by AYC Instructor, Tucker Waldron
Inversions are powerful postures in the practice of yoga. They can benefit us physically, mentally and even spiritually. In hatha yoga, the primary branch of yoga as practiced in western cultures, the goal of the practice is to raise kundalini. Kundalini is a dormant state of consciousness that is nestled at the base of the spine in all of us and is usually depicted as a serpent. This energy of awareness moves through the central energy channel located in the spine (the shushumna nadi) to the sahasrara chakra, which is the highest energy center located on the crown of the head. This ultimately results in connecting us with Ishwara, our individual version of God.
All of this can seem quite esoteric and new-agey. So the question is, how can we understand this on a practical, everyday level? At any given moment we are not particularly aware of where our energy or consciousness is directed. Thankfully, yoga is there to help shed a light on it! Yoga asanas can teach us how to use our mental and physical energy (prana) with purpose and intention. They teach us how to control this prana, and ultimately, gain control of our senses (pratyahara) and consciousness itself (dharana and dhyana). If the goal of the yoga practice is to sublimate this energy and our consciousness to a higher level, inversions give us a shortcut to reversing the typical flow of energy and consciousness. Each group of postures corresponds to energy centers in the body. Inversions are unique in the fact that they flip the entire system and use the natural force of gravity to purify each chakra.
The benefits of inversions are vast but include physiologic, psychologic and yogic blessings. Physiologically getting upside down sends a refreshing flow of blood into the lungs, heart and head. They drain the stagnation that builds in our lower extremities due to sitting and standing. According to the Hatha Yoga Pradipika, they reverse aging, improve posture and bring harmony to all of the bodily systems. Psychologically, inversions broaden our perspective! It shows us that there is more than one way to view our world and that our unique perspective is not the only one. Yogically, inversions specifically purify the throat, third eye and crown chakras which correlate to our relation with our self, our teachers and our version of a higher power.
Inversions include but are not limited to:
- Child’s pose (balasana)
- Downward facing dog (adho mukha svanasana)
- Handstand (adho mukha vrksasana)
- Forearm stand (pincha mayurasana)
- Headstand (salamba sirsasana)
- Legs up the wall pose (vipareeta karani)
- Shoulder stand (salamba sarvangasana)
I love all of these inversions and their variations for different reasons, but if I had to choose one, I’d have to say forearm stand is my favorite. It is slightly less scary than handstand but more challenging than headstand. Pincha Mayurasana requires not just strength in the shoulders, arms and core but also openness in the shoulders and psoas. To me, it is a good example of the balance between stability and flexibility we aim to strike in the yoga practice and life itself.
In my opinion, the best reason to practice inversions is that they are just fun, and the best way to practice them is with a sense of playfulness! They are an opportunity to change our relationship with gravity and explore a different perspective in a whole new way. I hope you’ll join me on Wednesday, January 23, from 5:45pm to 7:45pm to play with and explore these inversions. If you can’t, I hope you take the time to do so on your own or in your next yoga class. Namaste.
You can sign up for Tucker’s Inversion workshop here!