The moment ‘inversions’ are mentioned in a yoga class there is either a sense of discomfort or absolute adrenaline for the idea of going upside down.
But wait! Why is headstand a benchmark of inversion in the first place?
What is an inversion?
Legs higher than hips is an inversion (legs against the wall at 90 degree) Hips higher than heart is an inversion (Viparitkarni mudra, legs against the wall with a cushion under the lower-back) Heart above the head is an inversion (downward facing dog, dolphin pose, crow pose, shoulder stand, plough pose, deaf man pose and of course headstand and handstand)
Why so scared of inversion? First being, you are not a bat! It’s unnatural for human body to be upside down. Second of course fear of falling (even worse- falling flat on the face). Fear of falling is real and that’s the very reason why you need an expert teacher/trainer to assist you into an inversion
How to get started? To relieve yourself from the fear and to get started, try vipritkarni mudra or simply rest your legs against the wall. From their slide a cushion under the spine and see how it feels. Practice shoulder stand with your teacher in class and gain confidence before you try it on your own.
Why do an inversion? Humans, the only biped (walked on two legs) creatures have their circulatory system working against the gravity. Our bodies are continuously working to stay upright (we might not notice but think of a child who is learning to walk). When we practice inversion our circulatory system and organs in the body especially heart gets a little bit of a break. Lymphatic drainage improves and oxygen flow increases in the brain (resulting in improved functioning of neurotransmitters)
Dr. Karen Koffler, medical director of Canyon Ranch Miami and formerly director of Integrative Medicine at Evanston Northwestern Hospital, explains the benefits of these inversions for the brain “Inverted positions that are assumed in yoga alter the blood flow (including lymphatic drainage) and flow of cerebral spinal fluid (CSF). If there is increased blood flow to the area, there will be increased bioavailability of oxygen and glucose—the two most important metabolic substrates for the brain. It follows then that cells bathed in a solution that is rich in factors required for the creation of neurotransmitters (like norepinephrine, dopamine, and serotonin) will be better able to produce these chemicals.” You might be able to do 100 push-ups in a go but that does not guarantee you can do a headstand. Or you might be absolutely flexible and yet not be able to do a headstand. Although headstand or hand stand is not a bench mark of being a yogi but it is definitely a milestone towards physical and mental stability, as inversions train the muscles and the whole body for something that we never do in our everyday routine and that is to be in the present moment.
Who should not do inversions?
Those who have… High blood pressure, Heart disease, Glaucoma, Pregnancy (this can be debated), Excess weight, Neck injury, Shoulder Injury