Uplifting Inversions: How Yoga Turns Your Life Upside Down…

Uplifting Inversions: How Yoga Turns Your Life Upside Down

People who don’t do yoga often ask what I love about it. It’s hard to answer without holding them hostage for 20 minutes. But often I’ve described how I, and my colleagues, friends, and students, feel when they learn to invert. Invert is just another word for going upside down: whether it be headstand, handstand, Wheel, or simple shoulder stand.  

As I start explaining yoga and inversions to them, I feel excited just describing how it feels to start trusting the experience of going upside down. Then I get more excited remembering the many students who have gone through the gauntlet of fears and have come out the other end: upside down in either headstand, handstand or even a modified version of shoulder stand. The rush of confidence, coupled with of course the coursing of endorphins and dopamine through your system–who couldn’t help but feel great?

But why do we feel great going upside down? Is it the breath? Is it turning the body on end? The benefits actually come from all of these!



SEE ALSO: The Number One Reason Why Most People Struggle With Meditation

Breath

Breathing has been shown to be one of the top factors in health today. The amount of oxygen in your blood, the amount that gets to your brain, the amount available to your cells, these all count. And going upside down enlivens your system in ways that you don’t normally get to do.  

When you invert, coupled with ujjayi breathing (a closed mouth, deliberate whispering in the throat yogic breath that heats you up from the inside), you move the breath throughout the whole body in ways that we forget to in our more shallow everyday breathing. And a great benefit of inverting, and yoga and yogic breathing overall, is that the practice will change the way you breathe just sitting at your desk or driving in your car.  The more you practice yoga, the more accustomed you become to breathing deeply.  This new awareness of your breath informs and changes your everyday breathing for the better.  And this means your brain and your body become more oxygenated.



Your Body is the Best Pharmacy

Your body holds a variety of neurochemicals that can lift THE mood (endorphins, dopamine), create feelings of connection (oxytocin), and much more. These endogenous, drugs, which means these are created by your own body, help lift your mood and shape your brain activity and personality. So it behooves you to activate them in all the healthy ways that you can.

Endorphins: Naturally produced by your body in response to pain, these endogenous opioid neuropeptides also create what is known as “runners high”. You can feel the same from inverting in yoga. Call it an “Inversion high” if you like!

Dopamine: The reward system in your brain thanks you each time you fulfill a goal by pumping dopamine into your system. Healthy ways to get this release uplift your day and your overall mood. You will set a goal, fill it AND get a burst of dopamine into your system. How can you beat that?

Improves Lymphatic System Drainage

Yoga and especially inversions helps your lymphatic system work more efficiently, which means that it rids your body of toxins and waste more efficiently.  

Confidence

Setting a goal and actually filling it does wonders for your sense of self and self-confidence. You kept a promise to yourself! Awesome! Feelings of well-being and salubrious pride course through your body. And remember, goal-setting and fulfilling leads to release of dopamine–double win!

Defying the Ever-Present Gravity of Our situation as Humans

That is a play on words, but the serious part of it is that gravity is indeed pressing down upon us all of the time. Our bones, joints, tendons all take the toll. Practicing yoga, and specifically, inversions, counteracts this in a way that is dramatic, both in how you appear physically and how your body ages. It lengthens and elongates your spine, taking that ever-present pressure off of it and allowing space between the vertebrae.

This ends up affecting your posture in dramatic ways. You stand and look taller and longer in your body. And studies have shown that great posture feeds good self-confidence. Yoga and inversions can get you there!

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Tiffany Rawson-Ahern

Tiffany Rawson-Ahern is a writer, yogini, avid walker and lover of nature and all things furry. She lives in Connecticut and enjoys Costa Rica--and Central America overall. She teaches yoga classes and has also an online yoga video studio with over 100 yoga videos that folks can enjoy anywhere they have internet at www.YogaUniverse.com.

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