Inverted yoga poses are good for mind and body
In yoga, inverted poses turn people upside down as they stand on their head while performing headstands and handstands.
While these poses build core strength and strengthen muscles in the back and abdomen, researchers from the US National Library of Medicine have found many other ways they can benefit a person’s health.
Improved digestion: The upside down position puts pressure on the pituitary gland, which plays a role in health digestion. Headstands are recommended for irritable bowel syndrome and other digestive ailments because it reorients the colon and intestines, which encourage bowel movements.
“Digestion can also be improved by seated twists, where the stomach and thigh are touching,” says Victoria Jackson, yoga instructor from Good Samaritan Hospital at the Health and Wellness Center.” This pose massages the internal organs and digestive system by ‘squeezing out’ stale blood, also known as venous blood, then, with the release of the pose, allows fresh, oxygenated blood flow back into the organs. This phenomenon is known as ‘wring and soak’. Yoga in general, with increased breathing and gentle stretching, helps circulation and digestion.”
Stimulates brain function: Inverted poses send blood to the brain, which improves brain function. This position also stimulates the pineal gland that is responsible for regulating the sleep-wake cycles, as well as plays a role in the body’s maturation process.
In addition, a study conducted at the University of Illinois found that just 20 minutes of yoga stimulates brain functioning immediately.
Heart Benefits: “Inversions, even with a simple legs-up-the-wall asana, uses gravity to draw blood from the legs and lower trunk back to the heart,” says Jackson. “This increased blood flow stretches the heart muscle, which can then contact more powerfully, pumping an increased amount of blood to the whole body.”
Mood enhancement: Research performed at University of California found that when individuals with mild signs of depression participated in one-hour yoga sessions that included inversion poses twice a week for five weeks they reported significantly decreased symptoms of depression.
Although there are many health benefits of inversion there are risks and precautions that you must keep in mind while attempting this pose. Jackson says it is important to be mindful of good alignment and remember safety always comes first so practice these poses next to a wall, or with the supervision of a teacher or experienced yoga partner.
“Start with strengthening poses such as planks and dolphin,” says Jackson. “In the dolphin pose, focus on the tripod base created with your elbows and hands. Focus on the point of balance in your lower back. Use your breath to assist in focus and don’t be afraid to fall.”
Despite many benefits of inversion yoga, experts say there are specific groups that should avoid inversions. “Headstands should not be practiced by those with high blood pressure, during menstruation, those with eye conditions such as detached retina or glaucoma and any people with inflammation in the head or have neck pain due to accident or other causes,” warns Jackson.
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About the Author
Tiffany Nguyen, health enews contributor, is a public affairs and marketing intern at Advocate Support Centers in Downers Grove, IL. She is a graduate of Northern Illinois University with a degree in public health. She is currently pursuing a Master’s in Business Administration focusing specifically on healthcare management at Lewis University. Tiffany enjoys hanging out with her friends, exploring new restaurants, and binge watching Netflix shows.