Forget fear, flip your perspective and improve health by going upside down.
Gwen Lawrence has been massage therapist for 20 years and a practicing fitness professional since 1990.
Headstand can be the most anxiety-inducing word heard in yoga class. Inversions, however, offer numerous benefits; some are even considered to be calming (yes, really). Here, 7 reasons to make these poses a consistent part of your practice.
“Inversions, when done properly, are good for your health,” explains Gwen Lawrence, yoga instructor to pro athletes like the NY Giants. Typically categorized as an asana (yoga posture) with the head being below the heels, they include forearm stand, handstand, headstand and shoulderstand.
- Stimulate The Pineal Gland According to Lawrence, “flushing out the glands” occurs a result of inversions. The pineal gland, part of the endocrine system, is a small, conelike gland located in the middle of the brain. Imagine your third eye chakra, right between the eyes and above the bridge of the nose. Ancient yogis believed the pineal gland secreted amrita, thought to be the fluid of immortality. Keeping your body in a continuously upright position causes this fluid to drip down into your solar plexus, where it would evaporate. Practicing inversions allows the fluid to drip back down into the head, retaining its essence.
- Increases Oxygen In The Brain Going upside down alters circulation, sending blood to the head, by positioning the body so the heels are above both the head and heart. This allows blood and fresh oxygen to move into areas of the body that do not receive as much when in its standard upright position. This increases mental function, improves concentration as well as memory.
- Improve Immune Function Lawrence tells us that inversions can “enable clearing of the sinuses and lymphatic healing” which are key in maintaining health. As lymph moves through the body, it picks up toxins and bacteria that need to be eliminated via the lymph nodes. Lymph moves as a result of muscle contractions and gravity; thus, going upside down allows lymph to travel more easily into the respiratory system, where toxins enter the body.
- Create An Energetic Shift Inversions, specifically active ones such as handstand or forearm stand, can be very energizing. These active inversions get more blood moving to the brain, invigorating both the physical body as well as the brain.
- Calm The System Not all inversions are active and energetic in nature. “Headstand, shoulder stand, viparita karani (legs up on the wall) tend to induce a sense of calm, shutting down the sympathetic nervous system,” explains Lawrence. She says that people tend “to have excess fight or flight at certain times” and these specific inversions can alleviate that by producing feelings of balance and calm, utilizing the activation of the parasympathetic nervous system.
- Boost Bone Density “Advanced practitioners can spend some quality time upside down to “increase the density of the bones in the neck,” says Lawrence.
- Flip Your Perspective Finally, there’s no better way to see the world in a different light than by doing so in a physical manner. “There is something to be said about changing your perspective on the world,” says Lawrence. Rather than reacting to the outside world in a predictable fashion, inversions teach us that there is always another way to approach a situation or circumstance.