when i was younger my grandmother told me that i should stand on my head every day for a few minutes so that my hair would grow longer. i thought she was crazy and told her that i was a gymnast who was doing plenty of daily handstands so she needn’t worry.
now, years later, almost every yoga class i go to ends with some sort of headstand, handstand, inversion pose before savasana. why is this posture so important? well, thanks to gravity, the entirety of your body—blood, organs, bones, tissues, etc.—spend almost 100% of their time being pulled down with the same force of 9.8 m/s2. turning upside down essentially allows all that fluid and matter that makes you to be pulled in the opposite direction for a few moments. i am still not sure if this is making my hair grow faster, but I do finally have an appreciation for the benefits flipping upside down for a few minutes can have on the body and mind. here are a few things inversions do…
- enhance circulation: the cardiovascular system is your body’s transportation system, carrying food and oxygen to your body’s cells. it also retrieves blood from your legs and lower torso, carrying it upwards against the force of gravity. inversion allows your body to work with gravity to ease the circulation process.
- enhance functioning of the lymph system: this system is responsible for waste removal, immune-system response and fluid balance. when your body inverts, this stimulates your lymphatic system and, in turn, strengthens your immune system. athletes prone to stiffness or sore muscles after a workout can benefit from the lymphatic wash provided by inversion. the lymphatic system has no pump, putting the body upside down helps speed up the process of removing waste from the body.
- provide stress and tension relief: muscle tension declined over 35% within ten seconds of inverting. this shows how helpful inversions can be in relieving the tension and pain in your muscles that is often caused by stress.
- keep you tall!: most people will lose from 1/2 inch – 2 inches in height during their lifetime because of thinning discs. as a baby, your discs are 90% water. the water content in the discs decreases to 70% by age 70. an active inversion program can help maintain more of your original height.
- enhance brain function: inversions increase the blood flow to the brain, giving it more oxygen and nutrients and making the brain function faster and better. this improves concentration, memory, observation and boosts clear thinking. according to Dr. Robert Martin, the brain operates 14% more accurately when the brain is operating on an inverted, inclined plane. inversions may also stimulate cerebrospinal fluid, or CSF, which is the juice of the central nervous system that flows from the brain to the spinal cord. in headstand, the top of the skull experiences pressure that could promote elasticity in the cranial bones, thus increasing the production of CSF to the ventricles of the brain
in addition, inversions have been cited to help insomnia, ease indigestion, enhance skin quality, relieve back pain, and even make you more beautiful and happy. try a few of the following poses to see what inversions can do for you. see the links for instructions to get the most positive effects out of your inversions. if you’ve never tried one before, start with a more basic pose like Supported Shoulder-stand and remember to never try turn your head or bend your neck once you are up in the pose.
1. Supported Shoulder-stand
Supported Shoulderstand | Yoga Poses | Yoga Journal
2. Supported Headstand
Supported Headstand | Yoga Poses | Yoga Journal
Handstand | Yoga Poses | Yoga Journal