For many, the idea of being upside down is a strange one and indeed before I discovered yoga I would have agreed with them, now each day I look for the time when I can spend a few minutes looking at the world from the wrong direction!
There are many benefits of an inversion (upside-down asanas) they help to calm your mind, improve circulation, give you an energy boost, help to keep your lymphatic system healthy which reduces the risk of getting ill and improves you balance, most of all they are so much fun and highly addictive!
When we think of yoga poses that involve being upside down we may imagine you would have to be an advanced yogi to achieve them, however there are many different variations we can use to make them accessible for all!
Below are some of my favourite examples of inversions that can be tried at home or where ever you feel comfortable:
Legs up the wall (Viparita Karani)
- Place your bottom as close to the wall as you can then swing your legs round and up the wall.
- Keep your legs engaged pushing softly against the wall and your feet flat, imagine you are trying to point your toes down towards your body.
- Place your arms above your head, out to the sides or place the left hand on your chest and the right on your stomach and allow them to rise and fall with your breath.
- Allow your eyes to close, let your jaw, cheekbones and little muscles around your eyes relax.
- Start to breathe deeply and naturally and feel your body relaxing, let your mind to quiet and become still. If you feel you mind wandering focus on the inhalations and exhalations of your breath.
- If your feet start to tingle or feel uncomfortable bend your knees and bring them down the wall.
- Stay in this position for 5-15 minutes or however long you feel comfortable for.
- Feel free to use place a blanket underneath your back and even a rolled-up towel underneath your neck to deepen this pose.
Benefits – Great for Digestion, High and Low Blood Pressure, Headaches or Migraines, Menopause and Menstruation, Anxiety and Arthritis.
Downward facing dog (Adho Mukha Svanasana)
- Keep your feet Hip width apart and press your feet firmly in to the floor
- Place your hands down on to the mat and lift your tail bone high in to the air, keep your knees bent and create as much space in your torso as possible, keep your core lightly engaged.
- Roll your shoulders away from your ears and bring your shoulder blades apart.
- Imagine you are trying to push your chest back to touch your thighs.
- Look through the space between your feet, keeping your neck in line with your spine.
- If you feel comfortable straighten both legs keeping them strong and long, try and push down to the mat through your heels.
- Spread your palms wide and push evenly down through your mat.
Benefits – Works every part of the Body, increases flexibility of the Legs, strengthens Lower Back, Legs, Arms and Core and creates a sense of calm.
Supported Half Headstand (Salamba Sirsasana)
- Find a suitable wall and place a folded blanket or your mat against it.
- Kneel down and place your forearms shoulder width apart on the floor, wrap your fingers around the crook of your elbows to ensure they are the correct distance apart, then lace your fingers together and place against the wall, push your forearms firmly down on the mat.
- Place the crown of your head snugly in between your hands,
- On inhalation Lift your tail bone in to the air and start to walk your feet forward so your body is making an upside down “V” shape.
- Push down through your shoulders and your forearms making sure they are taking your weight, there should not be too much pressure on your neck and head.
- Keep your core engaged to protect your lower back.
- Once you have practised this and feel strong and stable enough on your next exhalation lift both legs with the knees bent. (you may need a few practises to achieve this)
- Keep lifting until your hips are on top of your torso, you can place your feet/toes against the wall behind you for support. Remember to continue pushing your forearms firmly in to the floor keeping the weight evenly balanced.
- Stay here for as long as you feel comfortable adding a few breaths each time.
- To come down slowly lower your feet down towards the floor, bring your knees back on to the mat or blanket and unlink your fingers, bring your head up and push your body back in to child’s pose (Balasana)
Benefits – strengthens arms, back, legs, core, spine and lungs, helps to tone the abdominal organs and improves digestions, gives you a lot of energy!
Shoulderstand (Salamba Sarvangasana)
- Lie on the floor with your hips against a wall.
- Swing your legs round so your feet are flat pushing lightly against the wall.
- In shoulderstand it is really important to keep your neck still, moving it whilst in shoulderstand could cause nerve damage.
- On inhalation push your feet against the wall and start to lift your hips off of the mat. contracting your tummy muscles.
- Place your hands under your middle back for support, your elbows should be on the mat.
- Roll your shoulder blades together.
- Tuck your neck in to your chest so the back of your neck remains long.
- Stay here if this is enough for you today however if you want to challenge yourself further you can practise taking the left leg away from the wall and pointing it high in to the air then try this with the right.
- Once you feel confident in this the next step is to take both legs away and keep then straight, strong and pointed high in to the sky as if you are trying to get your feet to touch the ceiling continue to breathe naturally here.
- A tip here is to place a folded blanket underneath your shoulder for extra support, ensure your head and neck are off the blanket.
- Benefits- Reduces anxiety, insomnia, improves digestion, strengthens immune system, massages thyroid and increases blood flow to the lymphatic system, nourishes whole body
Caution: these poses should not be attempted if you have any of the following conditions: high blood pressure, heart conditions, neck injuries, recent stroke, detached retina, glaucoma, epilepsy, any previous neck or back injuries and pregnancy. Please talk to your yoga teacher or doctor before attempting them.