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Inversions are a key aspect of a well balanced yoga practice, but they can be intimidating positions when approaching them for the first time or for individuals with certain physical discomforts.
- Engage the upper body and core
- Stretch the muscles along the spine
- Strengthens the Heart
- Increases blood flow to the brain
There are many types variations of the inversions, including head and hand stands, as the inversions get their names from the fact you invert the body, though today our focus will be on the supine or reclined inversions where you begin by laying on the back.
Legs up on the Wall can be the ideal avenue into the full inversions for individuals with less upper body strength practicing along the wall offers physical and psychological support and it is possible to move from the wall into deeper and more challenging inversions.
Simple Inverted pose is a modified or half-shoulder stand and an ideal pose to transition through as you move into shoulder stand or plow. It is also the posture to move into if a full shoulder stand is uncomfortable. If practicing this postures brings about tension in the shoulders or neck I recommend the use of some additional support under the shoulders. This can done with be a towel or blanket that has been folded over, folding over the mat is another option.
Shoulder Stand is a bit more intense than the previously mentioned postures. The Shoulders, Hips and heels move into vertical alignment. The hands help to support the body and are usually positioned near the mid to upper back. As with all of these postures, the use of a blanket or bolster support can ease tension in the upper back and shoulders and offers a bit of cushion from the floor to avoid compression of your vertebrae.
Plow pose adds a bend or forward fold at the waist from shoulder or half shoulder stand, bringing the toes towards the floor above the head. This motion draws the stretch deeper along the spine and beneath the shoulder blades. You can alternate the legs, bringing one down and pointing the other to the ceiling, then switching. If you are unable to bring the feet completely down to the floor, resting the toes to a block or bringing the feet to the wall are modifications that can be easily made at most studios or if you are practicing at home.
Ear Pressure Pose is going to offer a more intense stretch to the body. Moving from plow, bend the knees into the chest, then slide the legs apart as you begin to release the knees down towards your ears, letting your legs hug the head. Rest the hands on the back to offer the body some additional support and when it becomes comfortable, rest the tops of the feet to the mat.
While holding any of these postures:
- Protect the neck and back- Use a blanket or bolster support to ensure safety and comfort.
- Hold the neck straight, making sure to ALWAYS look up to the ceiling or your legs.
- Maintain the breath- it should flow freely.
Move slowly and with control into and out of these postures, remembering as you come down to roll the spine onto the mat by walking the hands down the body. Once the back is completely flat, rock the back along the mat or make circles with the knees to release any tension. If you would like, complement the inversions with a forward fold or reclined spinal twist.
Please note that Inversions should be avoided by women during their cycle and by individuals with high blood pressure and shoulder, neck or back injuries. If you are pregnant and have had previous experience with the positions it is okay to continue practice, but if you are beginning your practice during pregnancy, avoid inversions until about 6 weeks post natal, or longer if appropriate. Additionally, if you are don’t yet feel ready to move into the inversions during a class or are disinclined to do so on any particular day, you are always welcome to rest on the mat or move into another posture that you feel comfortable in, such as lying the back flat on the mat and holding the legs up or into reclined cobblers or bridge pose.
Wishing you a wonderful day!
Ashley Freeman is a registered yoga teacher with the Yoga Alliance. Certified in Raja Yoga, her experience includes private in-home lessons, workplace wellness programs, and group instruction teaching various class formats and yoga styles. Find her on Google+