Although challenging, yoga inversions can offer an abundance of health benefits when incorporated into a balanced practice. As a result, many medical professionals today recommend inversion therapy to improve blood flow in the body and provide relief for chronic back pain, sciatica, and other conditions.
However, research suggests that a balanced yoga asana practice with inversions can be more effective in boosting your overall health and well-being. When incorporated into your daily practice, you can reap the following yoga inversions benefits:
1. Boosts Brain Health
Inverted yoga postures are renowned for their supercharging effect on the brain. When the body is inverted, gravity causes the blood to flow in the opposite direction, towards the head. This increased blood flow to the brain can improve cognitive function by 14% and counteract symptoms of mental illnesses like depression and anxiety. Additionally, inversions may also hold the power to halt the brain’s aging process and even delay dementia.
2. Regulates Blood Pressure
Many people practice yoga to reduce high blood pressure and hypertension. In the case of inversions, we can stimulate the body’s pressure gauges known as baroreceptors. These take pressure readings of the blood vessels and make suitable adjustments in blood pressure. The stimulation of these receptors boosts their responsiveness, which improves the body’s ability to regulate blood pressure. The reversed flow of blood and oxygenation that takes place in Headstand also gives the heart some time to rest and recharge, reducing the risk of heart disease.
It’s important to note that inversions can also increase blood pressure. Beginners who use too much muscular tension to hold themselves up activate the sympathetic nervous system instead, causing blood pressure to rise. For this reason, those who already suffer from high blood pressure are advised not to do inversions, unless carefully guided by an experienced yoga teacher and in agreement with their treating physician.
3. Stimulates the Lymphatic System
Inverted postures stimulate the lymphatic system, which is responsible for removing waste and toxins from the body. The lymphatic system relies on movement to circulate lymph fluid throughout the body, and inverted poses can facilitate this rejuvenating movement. Poses that compress the abdomen and stimulate the thoracic duct, such as Shoulderstand, can help drain lymph fluid and used blood from your legs.
3. Aids Digestion
Are inversions good for digestion? The answer is yes. Shoulderstand, Plough Pose, and Headstand are all recommended yoga poses for better digestion and gut health. When practiced comfortably, these inversions activate the rest and digest mode and release the pressure of gravity on the colon. This movement can also massage the visceral organs and flow new blood to the area.
4. Improves Thyroid Health
Yoga inversion postures like Shoulderstand and Plough Pose can help improve thyroid issues and reduce related symptoms. Inversions activate the parasympathetic nervous system which reduces stress and promotes the production of necessary thyroid hormones. These poses also increase blood circulation to the thyroid glands by pumping oxygen-rich blood to deprived areas through the squeeze-and-release effect.
5. Builds Strength and Balance
Balancing upside down requires a combination of strength, stability, and immense concentration. Over time, regular practice of inversions can help to increase upper body strength and improve overall muscular endurance. Inversions also challenge your sense of balance and movement in space. When the body is inverted, the brain must adapt to a new sensory input, which can help improve balance and coordination.
6. Calms the Mind
Holding an upside down posture for a minute might sound like the opposite of relaxing, but when practiced correctly, inversion yoga poses can have a calming effect on the mind. Inversions work to stimulate the parasympathetic nervous system, which is responsible for the body’s rest and digest response. In this mode, we are able to relax, quiet the mental chatter, and let go of tension deep in our muscles.
By focusing on the breath and the body’s movements, we can also become more present and focused, which can promote feelings of inner peace and serenity.