Inversions can be an uplifting and inspiring activity to bring into your daily routine. The benefits of inversions will vary in degrees depending on the individual's personal make up.
Take for example an ‘Inversion table’ these are generally used to support individuals to find balanced health (we like to think of this as survival). These contraptions are incredibly beneficial at bringing the whole body (and mind) back into homeostasis (balance) and is quite supportive for the nervous system.
Inversions can also be so much more, and from a Yoga perspective are an important part of a whole practice, although in Modern Yoga this is a controversial topic. We believe inversions do hold a great potential when practiced properly and with care they can be a tool that empowers you to move from a place of mere surviving towards thriving.
In Aerial Yoga, using props such as yoga swings or hammocks are a fantastic way to practice inversions in a safe, supportive and uplifting way. Inverting in a yoga swing (above images) also provides beautiful decompression for the spine (just like the inversion table), without any weight on the head or strain on the shoulders that come from the classical yoga inversion poses.
When practiced in regular mat based yoga practice its best to keep it simple to start - with things like simply placing the legs up the wall while lying on the back. Remember, with yoga postures there is no silver bullet, and no one pose fix-it for everyone. The common inversion poses we see pictures of in yoga are; headstand; shoulder-stand; forearm balance and handstand.
A yoga shoulder-stand deserves the first mention as it has come to get the reputation of being an ‘easy inversion’. Shoulderstand actually requires strength and flexibility in the neck and shoulders and really should always be practiced with props (like blankets to lift the shoulders). An interesting thing to note is that in the world of cell phones and computers a common postural dysfunction is known as ‘head forward’ where the head sits a few cm forward of its natural alignment. This causes weakness in the deep flexor muscles of the neck. If your deep neck flexors are weak, your nervous system will receive this message as instability in the body and the hamstrings will tighten up to help balance your posture (and stop the head from falling any further forward!), inhibiting the potentially ‘relaxing’ experience you could be having in a pose like shoulderstand!
Classical headstand is another pose that should not be practiced with any neck conditions, (or eye pain) or any cautious feelings really - your body is smart, and it is wise to listen to that inner voice first! As a safe go-to rule, any inversions with your head, neck or shoulders bearing weight should only be practiced with correct alignment and never be practiced with any pain! In yoga, pain = no gain! With the help of a trained teacher, spend the time to build the foundations and find your alignment first. Once you know you have that, lifting slowly with awareness will support keeping your body in the proper alignment (and build bonus deep core muscles!) - jumping into these shapes is often an injury risk with way more of a chance of losing balance and falling out.
Lastly, inversions can be a whole lot more empowering when practiced with the head off the floor - ideally, the less weight on the head the better. It can actually be good practice to start your yoga inversion journey with handstands before other ‘classical’ Yoga inversions as this can build the necessary strength awareness and balance for the more weight bearing things like classical or tripod headstand.
With all this taken into consideration, we do recommend giving inversions a go in a way that makes sense for each individual. When practiced with quality guidance and good self awareness they can be an incredibly powerful, fun and rewarding experience!