We often talk about how Yoga is so much more than just the poses. Yoga is about the breath, it’s about listening to your body, it’s about building the mind/body connection. During class I always tell students to take Child’s Pose if even a pinky toe asks for a break. A yoga student could be considered more “advanced” when they take that break, when they know their own limits.
So why invert? If all that other stuff is more important why bother learning advanced poses?
Well one because they’re fun. But they may not be fun at first but yoga doesn’t always have to be so serious.
Inversions also have a lot of physical benefits. Getting your hips over your head reverses your relationship to gravity. We spend all day long on our feet, whether standing or seated, and gravity pulls our body down (on average we’re a centimeter taller when we wake up in the morning than when we went to sleep – that’s what gravity does every day). Lymph fluid can concentrate in our lower extremities and getting upside down allows that fluid to drain better. Blood can more quickly get to the heart and circulation improves.
Not convinced yet?
Well inversions can help your immune system too. It’s been said that even Down Dog (yes that’s an inversion too!) can improve the flow of fluid in the sinuses and flush mucus from the lungs. I already talked about lymph fluid draining better and the lymphatic system plays a big part in immune response so any improvement there is good news. Legs up the Wall Pose (Viparita Karani) literally lying with your hips near a wall and your legs up the wall is a great pose to stimulate the lymphatic system. Also with your head below your heart more blood and oxygen flows into the head which can help with concentration and memory.
So if Down Dog and Legs up the Wall are inversions that bring all these benefits than why do Handstand or Forearmstand?
For one they require a lot of strength and building strength we know is always a good thing. Standing on something other than your feet whether it’s your hands, your forearms, or your head requires a ton of core strength and awareness of how to use that strength to keep you upside down.
Second they build humility and perseverance. There’s a lot of falling down involved, so knowing how to fall safely is really important, but having the drive to get back up is even more so.
Lastly it takes a lot of courage to play with gravity. To admit that you might fall down but that’s okay. To go out on a limb, and try something without knowing the outcome.
Most of all when you finally do get upside down and can hold it, whether it’s at the wall with lots of blocks and straps helping or in the middle of the room with nothing other than your own strength holding you up, the rush of confidence you get is truly amazing. Every time I get up into handstand I’m proud of myself. I feel like I can do anything. And that’s something no one can take away from me.
Join Gretchen this sunday June 22nd 2014 from 4-6 for her Learn to Invert Workshop. Cost is $20 for Members, $25 for Non-Members and $30 day of per class. Class is limited to 20 spots. or register at any studio or over the phone.