A few weeks ago, I finally had to face the moment I feared, head on (literally) – having to do a head stand. Maybe it was a good thing that I was the first one in the class to try it, because that gave me no time to feel scared and chicken out. But another major factor was that I know that with Master Sree, we were in good hands.
There is definitely still alot of practice and room for improvement before I can nail my first supported head stand (against the wall). I realise that fear has alot to play in the pace of improvement. When I am upside down, the fear of losing balance tends to flood my consciousness, such that my brain is unable to effectively tell my elbows to push inwards, my neck to stay strong and my belly muscles to suck it in.
Perhaps for now, to encourage myself (and anyone else out there who is overcoming the fear of inversions) to do more inversions, I would like to share some of the benefits of yoga inversions.
An inversion is when the heart is placed higher than the head. Adho Mukha Svanasana and Prasarita Padottanasana can be considered as semi-inverted poses, where the feets are not off the ground. The main inverted poses consist of – just to name a few – Sarvangasana (shoulder stand), halasana (plough pose), sirsasana (headstand) and handstand.
Inversions stimulate the immunity system. In an inverted position, lymph moves to the key areas of the body eg. lungs more efficiently, thereby improving the elimination of toxins from the body.
Further, inversions can strengthen the abdominal and core muscles, which are key to maintaining a good posture. As Master Paalu said, in a headstand, you are also working the muscles in the upper body such as the deltoids, neck muscles and trapezius.
Inversions can also help to relieve spinal pain, as it counteracts the pressure on the spine in an upright position.
As being in an inversion defies gravity, it supposedly helps to slow down ageing (eg. less sagging of facial features).
Inversions allow an increased flow of oxygenated blood to the brain, which invigorates the brain and improves mental clarity and focus. Inversions also help to calm your mind and nervous system, and is a good way of relieving anxiety.
In addition, inversions can help us to look at things from a different angle – literally and figuratively! Perhaps the next time you get stuck with a difficult problem at work, try doing a headstand in an empty meeting room!
Another benefit of inversion, which I really hope to achieve, is the increase in confidence and patience, which can be applied to our daily life. To accomplish a challenging pose such as an inversion, loads of practice (and failing) are involved. By not giving in, we are training our minds to be more resilient. When we finally get into a pose, we feel confident of trusting our hard work and the process.
Inversions guide the energy of the pelvis towards the heart, enabling inner growth and self-exploration.
To close out this post, here are some important points to note in practising inversions:
- Besides being physically ready (in terms of strength), it is key to learn the correct alignment for each pose, to avoid injuries especially to the neck.
- It may be beneficial to practise how to “fall out” of an inversion, in order to be less fearful and also reduce the chances of injuries.
- As Master Sree advised, an inversion should always be succeeded by balasana (child pose), to allow the blood flow and therefore, heart rate and breath, to return to normal.
- To all ladies, it is recommended to avoid inversions during a menstrual period, as the reversed blood flow opposes the body’s urge to release stale blood and endometrial lining.
- Last but not least, always listen to your body. Be kind and be patient with your body!
With that, lets work hard towards nailing our headstands! Feel the fear, and do it anyway!