‘A yoga practice without inversions is like a marriage without a spouse, lemonade without lemons, or a body without a heart – the essence is missing.’– TheHindu.com
Yoga inversions are basically any yoga pose (or asana) that involve elevating your hips and heart above your head, essentially “inverting” your typical upright posture.
While some people believe that these are advanced postures, the truth is that inversions range from foundational to experienced, meaning everyone can get involved in the benefits of inversions in yoga.
The benefits of inversions are many and varied, and in this article, we’ll be diving into some of the best, including:
- Improved circulation
- Increased immunity
- Reduced stress and anxiety
- Strengthened core muscles
- . . . and many more!
11 Yoga Inversions Benefits
#1: Improved circulation:
Inversions, such as headstands and shoulder stands, harness the force of gravity to aid venous return and to facilitate a flow of oxygenated blood around the body, particularly to the brain – which has some incredible effects.
One study published in the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine in 2014 found that a yoga headstand (Sirsasana) led to a significant increase in blood flow velocity in the middle cerebral artery, suggesting improved brain circulation during the inversion.
Another study found that consistent yoga practice increased cerebral blood flow, which quite literally changed the structure of the brain and how well it functioned.
For this reason, increased blood circulation is believed to contribute to improved mental function by boosting concentration, memory, and cognitive processing abilities.
#2: Increased immunity:
There are many studies that evidence how yoga can benefit the lymphatic system, which is responsible for removing toxins and waste from the body – and this is also true of yoga inversions benefits.
Unlike the circulatory system, which uses the heart to pump blood throughout the body, the lymphatic system relies on other mechanical means to move lymphatic fluid. Inversions can be particularly useful because they use gravity to facilitate the movement of fluid within the body.By promoting lymphatic drainage, yoga inversions benefits include helping to cleanse the body of harmful substances, and bolstering the immune system‘s ability to fend off illnesses and infections. As a result, they can contribute to overall improved health and reduced susceptibility to certain diseases.
#3: Reduced stress and anxiety:
Corroborating much yoga research, studies have found that one of the benefits of inversions in yoga is that they can reduce stress, anxiety and depressive moods.
One reason behind this is that they can trigger the activation of the parasympathetic nervous system, often referred to as the “rest and digest” response.
This physiological shift helps to counterbalance our “fight or flight” stress response, inducing a state of relaxation and calmness. By reducing stress hormones and promoting a sense of tranquillity, inversions can be an effective tool for managing stress and anxiety.
More interesting research investigating the impact of inversion-based yoga postures on children with autism also noted many mood-balancing effects of the practice, noting improved focus, sensory information processing, communication, and self-regulation.
#4: Improved balance and proprioception:
One of my favorite yoga inversions benefits is that they are an amazing tool for improving our balance and proprioception through a process known as sensory feedback adaptation.
When we practice inversions our body is placed in an unusual and unfamiliar orientation which challenges your proprioceptive system to adapt, recalibrate and refine its internal map of body positioning.
Regular practice challenges the body’s spatial awareness and coordination, which our proprioceptive system adapts to and becomes more efficient at processing new information, leading to improved proprioception over time.
Enhanced balance and proprioception have incredible benefits and practical applications in daily activities, sports, and overall body control.
#5: Strengthened core muscles:
Contrary to what we might think, having a strong core goes beyond defined abs; in fact, it involves a complex network of muscles surrounding the spine, abdomen, and pelvis.
These muscles, including the transverse abdominis, obliques, erector spinae, multifidus, pelvic floor, gluteal muscles and more are constantly working together to provide stability, support, and control in almost all of our daily movements.
By challenging our balance in unfamiliar ways, amongst yoga inversions benefits is that they engage these core muscles dynamically to help stabilize and control the body’s position against the force of gravity.
With consistent practice, studies show that these muscles strengthen, leading to a more robust and stable core, which in turn, supports better posture, spinal alignment, and overall body strength.
#6: Improved spinal health & posture:
Including inversions during yoga practice can be a great way to help correct and enhance our posture by bolstering our spinal health. This is because inversions target the muscles responsible for supporting the spine and maintaining proper alignment.
Regularly practising inversions, can thus strengthen and train these muscle networks, and counteract the negative effects of prolonged sitting or poor posture habits, resulting in a more upright and balanced body stance.
Inversions can also improve spinal health through reducing spinal compression, studies show, which can ‘help maintain our original body shape and avoid prolapsed internal organs; help maintain correct posture; and contribute to overall general good health.’
#7: Increased flexibility:
Inversions offer an opportunity to stretch and lengthen various parts of the body, including the spine, hips, and hamstrings. As practitioners hold inverted poses, gravitational forces gently elongate these muscles and joints, promoting improved flexibility over time.
For example, a recent study investigated the effect of Downward Dog inversion, performed just twice a week for a duration of 10 weeks. The results revealed substantial enhancements in both knee and hip flexibility in practitioners.
This is a great benefit, as increased flexibility is not just about being able to put your body in weird and wonderful postures. Far from it, flexibility can actually greatly enhance our overall mobility and can reduce the risk of injuries related to stiffness and limited range of motion.
#8: Improved digestion
Certain inversions, such as forward bends, are widely believed to help support healthy digestion by boosting blood flow to the abdominal region and digestive organs, as well as aiding in the movement of food through massaging the digestive tract.
This improved circulation and digestive function helps enhance the efficiency of the digestive process and has been shown in studies to help improve symptoms of Irritable Bowel Syndrome, gastroesophageal disease and other digestive issues.
Another study found that yoga asana digestive benefits showed it could “ease old age related issues like constipation”.
#9: New perspective:
Beyond the physical, one of my favorite benefits of inversions in yoga is that they foster a unique mental aspect by encouraging us to perceive the world from an entirely different vantage point.
While it may sound simple, this shift in visual perspective really can affect our psychological perspective. It can clear old thought patterns, foster adaptability, open-mindedness, and the understanding that there are multiple ways to approach and interpret situations in life.
Simply put, inversions offer an opportunity to literally see the world from an upside-down perspective, challenging your regular way of looking at things.
#10: Boots confidence and playfulness:
Studies show that yoga sequences involving inversions can boost confidence and self-esteem – and when you think about it, this makes a lot of sense.
Being upside down isn’t in our everyday range of motion, so inversions can be intimidating, especially for beginners. So, when you practice inversions regularly and start to conquer your fears, it can really generate a sense of achievement and increased self-confidence.
And what’s even better is that this newfound confidence isn’t restricted to the yoga studio, but can spill over into so many other areas of our life.
On top of this, inversions are fun, and can inject a real element of excitement and playfulness into our yoga routine. As we explore and challenge our bodies’ capabilities in upside-down positions, the practice can offer a novel and dynamic way to mix up our yoga practice.
#11: Improves alertness, focus and presence:
Placing our body in such unusual body positions, practicing inversions requires a high level of concentration and mindful awareness – both of which can lead to increased faculties for focus.
As mentioned above, when we’re upside down our senses and proprioception (our sense of body position) are challenged, leading to a heightened state of presence.
As we concentrate on maintaining balance and alignment in these unusual postures, we naturally let go of distractions and become more attuned to the present moment.
What’s more, there’s evidence that yoga inversions can reduce fatigue and improve alertness. A study that studied the effects of inversions on the energy levels of breast cancer survivors found that “the yoga group had significant increases in vigour” compared to control groups.
Congrats, if you’ve got this far, you should now know lots about yoga inversions benefits! If you’ve enjoyed this article on the benefits of inversions in yoga, check out our other similar articles below: