Tips For Doing Inversion Yoga Poses

Headstand (salamba shirshasana) is​ one of​ the​ yoga poses that are considered inversion poses. Inversion poses involve any asanas that lift the​ feet above the​ head. Other inversion poses that are well known include shoulderstand (salamba sarvangasana) and half shoulderstand (viparita karani). But even lying on​ the​ floor with your legs on​ a​ chair is​ an​ inversion pose.

The concept behind inversion poses is​ expressed in​ yoga texts as​ viparita karani. Viparita karani is​ translated as​ meaning 'opposite process'. This simply means facilitating a​ different perspective. From the​ purely physical point of​ view,​ this different perspective in​ inversion poses is​ literal - in​ terms of​ looking at​ the​ world from a​ different physical viewpoint - as​ well as​ involving the​ body being supported in​ a​ different way.

But as​ yoga is​ more than simply physical exercises,​ there are other processes that are assisted. a​ lot of​ yoga is​ designed to​ help us change mental habits as​ well as​ physical habits. Through increasing our ability to​ adapt to​ change,​ instead of​ being stuck in​ old habitual responses,​ we​ increase our capacity for growth and transformation. This applies in​ all areas of​ our lives.

There is​ a​ theoretical concept in​ yoga about why inversion postures help. Ayurveda considers that many of​ the​ body's impurities are in​ the​ lower abdomen. When we​ raise our feet above the​ head,​ gravity is​ assisting us to​ move these impurities towards what the​ Ayurvedic system calls agni,​ or​ 'fire'. Agni particularly relates to​ our 'digestive fire',​ and is​ thus located above our lower abdomen.

So,​ by being upside down,​ and by using the​ deep and slow breathing typical of​ yoga,​ we​ help 'burn off' the​ impurities that were previously stuck.

Improved circulation is​ a​ more readily apparent and less 'esoteric' benefit of​ inversion yoga poses.

Whilst inversion postures have many health benefits,​ the​ ability of​ an​ individual to​ receive those benefits depends as​ much on​ their capacity to​ comfortably hold these sometimes difficult postures. For example,​ headstand and shoulderstand should simply not be done if​ people are pregnant,​ have neck pain,​ high or​ low blood pressure,​ neck injuries,​ or​ are menstruating. And neither of​ these postures should be attempted without the​ appropriate preparatory postures. Otherwise the​ risk is​ there that an​ injury,​ or​ stiffness,​ particularly to​ the​ neck area,​ will result.

Likewise,​ if​ doing these postures is​ very uncomfortable and difficult,​ more benefit will be derived from doing either the​ modified versions,​ or​ simply working on​ other yoga poses that strengthen these areas.

There are several important prerequisites for getting the​ most benefit fro inversions. the​ first one,​ a​ strong neck,​ I've mentioned. the​ others are a​ strong back and abdominal muscles,​ and the​ capacity to​ breathe well whilst in​ the​ posture. the​ latter is​ going to​ get better with practice,​ both of​ yoga itself and the​ inversions. it​ is​ also somewhat tied into having a​ strong back. Our back and stomach muscles will provide the​ support to​ hold the​ legs straight,​ which inturn opens up the​ thoracic cavity,​ and increases our ability to​ breathe well whilst upside down!

Tips for Doing the​ Inverted Postures

For Half Shoulderstand:

* Lengthen the​ exhale
* Don't lock the​ chin
* Keep your weight not on​ the​ head but on​ the​ wrists and elbows
* Don't try to​ pull your torso (and legs) into the​ vertical like in​ full shoulderstand if​ you have difficulties with your neck. By doing so,​ you're placing more pressure on​ your neck.
* Make sure you do the​ appropriate balancing postures afterwards. These include shalabhasana and bhujangasana

For Shoulderstand:

* Don't worry so much about keeping your elbows and arms parallel. This will create more tension in​ your neck if​ you're not proficient in​ this posture.
* Do the​ appropriate balancing postures. These are the​ same as​ for half shoulderstand.

For Headstand:

* Don't ever make adjustments whilst in​ headstand. if​ you feel your alignment is​ not quite right,​ come down and do it​ again.
* Never do this posture first up,​ or​ without the​ prerequisite postures. it​ will lead to​ stiffness in​ the​ neck at​ best,​ and injury at​ worst. And the​ negative effects can build up over time. This posture is​ never done traditionally without preparation,​ and there is​ reason for this.
* Use a​ wall for support as​ a​ learning stage
* Support your head with all of​ your fingers,​ including the​ little fingers and thumbs
* Finding the​ right position for your head will make sure weight is​ distributed evenly,​ and ensure you don't have to​ overly press down with your elbows to​ compensate
* Think of​ the​ support for the​ whole body as​ being distributed evenly across both elbows and the​ head
* Don't hold your weight too much on​ the​ back of​ your body. it​ will place too much pressure on​ your neck.
* Don't use props that allow the​ neck to​ be free. it​ will lead to​ the​ neck muscles contracting
* Use the​ balancing postures. Shoulderstand is​ the​ traditional,​ but Mohan recommends half shoulderstand instead
* Rest your neck before doing the​ balancing postures,​ however. Lie down with your legs bent.
* Other balancing postures include chakravakasana,​ dvipada pitham with the​ arms,​ and shalabhasana

There may be fears or​ a​ sense of​ limitation about doing inversion poses that will be confronted. Sometimes,​ it's best to​ start an​ asana gradually. Shoulder stand comes with a​ few variations that you can use to​ build up strength and flexibility,​ as​ well as​ overcome any fear based feelings about the​ posture and your ability to​ do it.

Overcoming the​ fear,​ and finally being able to​ do a​ difficult pose that you thought you couldn't,​ can create positive psychological effects. When we​ prove to​ ourselves that our fears don't bind us,​ that we​ can move beyond our limitations,​ we​ are more able to​ make changes in​ other areas of​ our lives where before we​ thought it​ just wasn't possible.

References: A.G.Mohan,​ Yoga for Body,​ Breath,​ and Mind

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