Aside from being a cool party trick, headstands and handstands actually have many great physical and mental benefits for you. But the truth is, you don't need to conquer impressive balance mastery to reap the benefits from an inversion practice. Practicing inversions can as simple as putting your legs up a wall and taking a nap. That said, there are so many benefits we can get from doing them regularly that you'll want to do them every day. Here are 7, feel free to share your ideas and input in the comment section at the bottom:
Beauty + Brains
Any position where your heart is higher than your head is considered an inversion. Because of this, more blood flows to the brain, face, and scalp which brings oxygen and nutrients, too. With practice, this can help improve your concentration and allow you to retain information better. Some yogis swear that it can help reduce wrinkles and even grey hair. Think about it. Gravity is constantly pulling the skin on your body downwards eventually creating saggy-ness. Now, flip your being upside down and imagine how that might change gravity's effect on your skin.
Inversions assist the transport of blood to the heart allowing the circulatory systems to work more efficiently. This not only includes circulation of blood, but also circulation of lymphatic and respiratory systems. This can result in all sorts of awesome-ness including immunity boosting, regulation of hormones, and healthier skin.
Inversions such as Shoulder Stand and Plough Pose stimulate the thyroid which is located in your neck. Your thyroid is responsible for regulating your metabolism. So if you're ever feeling sluggish, give those poses a try.
People fear all sorts of silly things... two recurring themes seem to be: 1. doing things they suck at (aka failing), and 2. falling or hurting themselves. This pretty much explains why a lot of yogis fear inversions as falling and failing are pretty much inevitable. One of my favourite sayings is "Use fear as your compass" because fears tend to cling to areas in our lives where we need growth. Follow your fears and you will grow. So, if you're one of thousands who fear inversions in your yoga practice, try using a wall or hiring a private lesson to have hands-on assists and support. Then, give fear the middle finger and watch your "limitations" melt away.
Falling over makes you humble.... 'Nuff said. Just always be sure to laugh at yourself when you fall over. Nothing feeds the ego quite like anger and discouragement to oneself over something as silly as falling out of a handstand. The reality is, it doesn't matter if you can balance on your hands or not. It won't make you a better person, and falling out of an inversion definitely won't make a worse person. Don't attach yourself to results and you'll always be happy. And laugh... A lot... Because falling over from handstand is actually pretty funny no matter how old you are. On a side note, learning how to safely fall out of inversions is very important so you don't hurt yourself. Keep humble, ask for help when needed.
Believe it or not, a lot of core strength is needed to tackle inversions; it is one of the key components to a strong inversion practice. Handstands are a lot more than just learning to sway on your hands and magically catching balance; your whole body is active and engaged. That being said, you'll grow stronger in your core, arms, and shoulders from learning to stand on different parts of your body.
Calms you down
Inversions have a very calming effect on the mind which may reduce stress and anxiety. Inversions also activate the parasympathetic nervous system in the body which is responsible for calming you down. Ever wonder why you feel so zen-like after a good yoga practice? Because your amazing, badass teacher ended the practice with poses for the parasympathetic nervous system. It's science.
If you're interested in adding more inversions into your daily practice- join my playful workshop on March 8th where we use arm balances and inversions to let go of fears that are holding us back. No experience needed. Email me for any questions or comments at firstname.lastname@example.org
*Photography by Oatway Productions