Yoga Inversions: How To, Benefits + 9 Best Inversion Yoga Poses

Inverted Yoga poses – they’re for advanced yogis… right? 

Wrong! 

Inverted poses are often considered to be too challenging and out of reach by many yoga students…

…but, with the right knowledge, inverted postures are not only attainable by even the most novice beginners, but also promise a variety of physical and mental benefits that make them well worth the stretch.

In this article, we’ll answer: 

  • What are Inversion Yoga Poses? 
  • What are the Benefits of Yoga Inversions? 
  • What are the Safety Precautions of Inversion Yoga Poses? 
  • The 6 Best Inversion Poses by Experience Level. 

Let’s get into it

inversion yoga poses

What Are Inversion Yoga Poses?

There are various categories that group the postures of yoga, which often overlap.

Inversions are any poses (or asanas) in which your hips and heart are elevated above your head, i.e. “inverting” your body’s normal upright posture. Simple!

What Are The 6 Benefits of Inversion Yoga Poses?

Yoga inversions boast a variety of physical, psychological, and emotional benefits that make them a great addition to your yoga practice. Here are our top six:

Benefit #1: Strength and Posture

Yoga inversions are all over body toners, strengthening the arms, legs, back, and core muscles

By placing your body in positions outside your normal range of motion and postures, they uniquely target and challenge certain muscle groups in new and dynamic ways, unlike other exercise forms.

Inversions help to improve your posture through the strong focus on midline stability and strength. 

Benefit #2: Flexibility

By holding your body in unusual stretched positions that target different muscle groups, inversions will help expand your range of motion and increase limb and muscle flexibility.  

Benefit #3: Circulation

Yoga inversions poses can increase blood circulation, helping the delivery of oxygen and nutrients throughout the body. 

This can also help lower your heart rate, by optimising oxygen uptake into your blood. By inverting your body’s posture, inversions harness gravity to increase the blood flow to your heart and lungs to be reoxygenated. 

Benefit #4: Immunity 

The increased circulation also leads to more effective lymphatic drainage, helping boost immunity and reduce inflammation. 

The lymphatic system is the linchpin of your immune system. Not only does it transport white blood cells which fight infections, but it also removes toxins and waste products from the body through lymphatic drainage.

Benefit #5: Energizes

Inverted poses can do wonders for improving alertness and increasing energy levels.

Having your head lower than your heart stimulates greater blood flow to your brain, and thus increases oxygen and nutrient supply to your brain cells. 

This also stimulates the release of dopamine, serotonin, and other feel-good endorphins which improve focus and mood. 

Benefit #6: Self Confidence

Inversions can be intimidating and can require considerable self-belief and perseverance. 

As you practice inversion poses your ability will improve, boosting your confidence as you overcome the self-doubt and fear that can accompany attempting poses so far outside your daily range of motion.

Safety Precautions When Doing Yoga Inversions

As well as the bountiful benefits that yoga inversions can offer, like any exercise, there are also risks and safety precautions to be mindful of. 

The nature of inverted poses is that they place your body in postures that are outside your day-to-day range of motions.  This is both the source of its many benefits and of its potential risks.

In order to reap these benefits and avoid injury, it’s crucial to take safety measures to minimise risks when attempting inversions.

#1: Learn to Fall Safely 

Inversions require strong balance, and strong balance requires practice. While you’re getting this practice, its somewhat inevitable that you’ll fall out of these positions from time to time.

But falling is a crucial part of the learning process and shouldn’t cause injury if you learn to fall safely.  

The first step is to embrace the fall. Falling limber with relaxed muscles will help disperse the energy of the impact across your body and reduce risk of injury.

Practice controlled falls. When you feel yourself losing balance in a headstand for example, try cartwheeling out in the direction you already feel yourself falling. 

If all else fails, try to fall on the meatiest parts of your body with the largest surface area, such as your side, which will also reduce the impact of the fall. 

#2: Build Up Slowly from Beginner Poses

Rushing into advanced inversions is likely to cause injury. 

Practicing regularly and building up slowly allows your body to develop the strength, balance and confidence that are crucial to performing the more advanced inversion postures safely.  

You can also use yoga blocks, towels or support yourself against a wall in certain positions to further ease yourself into more advanced poses. 

#3: Practice with a Buddy

For many people, yoga practice is a personal time for self-exploration and reflection, meaning it is often practiced alone. 

However, doing yoga in the company of others can make your practice safer. 

When first trying out a pose, its best to do so in the company of a trained yoga instructor who is qualified to ensure that you perform the poses safely. 

At home, practicing with a trusted friend is a great alternative. Take turns in watching and critiquing each other’s practice. 

#4: Know your body

Pushing yourself is crucial to advancing your ability – but too much can result in injury.  This is why knowing your body’s limits is crucial to safe yoga practice. 

Learning your body’s capabilities and boundaries often takes time, further illustrating the importance of #2.  

This step is especially important for those with underlying conditions and previous injuries. 

Those with high blood pressure, eye conditions, heart problems, previous neck, joint or back injuries and pregnant persons should always consult a doctor before attempting yoga inversions. If in a studio, always inform the instructor of these conditions. 

The 6 Best Inversion Poses by Level

Head over heels about yoga? Then you’ll be heart over head for these yoga inversions! 

There are many ways to reach the inversion poses listed below – so don’t feel limited to the ones we’ve suggested.

We haven’t included breaths in our steps, but mindful breathing is an essential component of yoga.

To exit these poses safely, simply follow the steps in reverse. 

Beginners Inversion Yoga Poses

#1: Downward Facing Dog

yoga inversion poses

How to get there: 

  • Start off on all fours with knees under your hips and shoulders stacked directly over your wrists. 
  • Make sure your hands are shoulder width apart and fingers spread. 
  • Pressing your palms into the matt and lift your hips up and back as you come into an upside-down V position. 

Tips and Tricks: 

  • With your arms long and straight, keep your shoulders back and away from your ears.
  • Keeping your palms pressed into the mat and legs straight try to bring your heels closer to the mat.
  • Bring your navel in and up, try to bring your chest towards your thighs.
  • Look between your knees or up towards your navel with a relaxed neck. 

Note: It’s tempting to bend your knees but try to keep your legs as straight as possible – remember, it’s more important to have straight legs than to have heels on the floor. 

#2: Legs Up The Wall Inversion 

yoga inversion poses

How to get there: 

  • Position the short end of your mat straight against the wall, placing a thick bolster (a yoga block, folded blanket or towel will do!) at the same short end.
  • With your head furthest from the wall, lie on your back with arms spread comfortably at your side. 
  • The bolster should be supporting from your upper pelvis to the bottom tips of your shoulder blades, while the shoulders themselves rest on the floor.

Tips and Tricks: 

  • For a variation, try crossing your legs while they are elevated against the wall.

Intermediate Inversion Yoga Poses

#3: Wide Leg Forward Fold

yoga inversion poses

How to get there: 

  • Start in basic triangle pose, where your arms are outstretched to your side, parallel to the floor and legs wide so that your ankles are roughly under your wrists.
  • Next, bring your hands to your waist or hips, and shuffle your toes so that they are slightly pointing inwards. 
  • Pressing into your heels, shoulders back, slowly bend forward from the hips, keeping your back straight and spine long. 
  • As your head approaches the floor, bring your palms onto the mat.
  • Slowly walk them back until they are under each hip and wrists are in-line with the heels.
  • Continue to fold forward until the top of your head touches the mat.

Tips and Tricks:

  • Use a block under your head if you need a little extra help into this position. 

#4: Shoulder Stand

yoga inversion poses

How to get there: 

  • Begin by placing two folded towels or blankets so that they cover around a quarter of the mat’s centre.
  • Then, lie your back against the blanket, the tops of your shoulders approximately three inches from the blankets top and your head is resting on the bare mat.
  • With your knees bent, heels tucked against your bottom and arms at your side, spread your fingertips and press them into the ground while you gently tuck your shoulder blades back.
  • Slowly bring your knees up to your chest, lifting your back up off the mat while placing your hands on your hips for support.
  • Then bring the knees up to your forehead, letting your feet hang above your head, hands still supporting the hips. 
  • From here, bend your knees so they are either side of your head close to your ears, toes touching the mat.
  • Next, slowly straighten your legs, toes still on the floor. Pay attention to your shoulders here to gauge whether they need to be tucked in closer towards your spine.
  • Aaaand now, engage your core to gently raise one leg at a time towards the sky, still using your hands (now on your lower back) for crucial support.

Tips and tricks: 

  • Be very mindful of your neck here – any pain is a sign to gently release yourself out of the position.

Advanced Inversion Yoga Poses

#5: The Crow Pose

yoga inversion poses

How to get there: 

  • Starting in chair pose, with knees bent and arms extending up to the sky.
  • Come up onto your tip toes and slowly sit your hips lower until they reach your heels.
  • Then learn forward, bringing your chest to the tops of your thighs with triceps touching your knees. 
  • Bending your elbows, place your palms down just in front of your shoulders, mat width apart with fingers spread.
  • Looking straight ahead, tip forward like you’re moving your collarbones towards the front of the mat, sit bones moving towards the sky. 
  • As you keep moving forward and come up to your tip toes, you should feel the weight of your knees on the back of triceps.
  • When you feel you are far enough forward (normally when your head and shoulders are just about parallel to the ground), test run by slowly lifting one foot of the ground, replacing it, and then repeating on the other foot. 
  • If this is fine, next simultaneously lift both feet off the ground, with the front of your calves roughly parallel to the mat.

#3: Headstand 

How to get there: 

  • Starting in thunderbolt pose (kneeling with the sit bones resting on the feet), cross your arms in front of you and grasp both elbows.
  • Then with elbows still grasped, bring your forearms onto the mat in front of you.
  • Keeping elbows shoulder distance apart and forearms on the mat, release your elbows and bring your hands in front of you in a fist. 
  • Next, bring the top flat part of your head onto the ground under your hands, sit bones naturally lifting up.
  • Tucking your toes under, slowly lift your hips up so your legs are straight and you’re on your tip toes. 
  • From here, slowly walk your feet towards your head as far as you can comfortably.
  • Engaging your core and biceps, bring legs bent against your chest one at a time.
  • Then, slowly bring your knees up while your heels slowly approach your sit bones.
  • Finally, straighten the legs up to the sky. 
  • Congrats yogi!

Tips and Tricks: 

  • We recommend using a wall or a buddy for extra balance to further ease yourself into this pose!
  • Stay in each pose as long as you need to – slow and steady is the key for headstand beginners!
Photo of author
Tish Qvortrup is a Brighton-born Yogi, with a passion for living intentionally. A Yoga Alliance registered 300hr teacher, she found her calling in Yin and Yang yoga. In her spare time, she loves exploring the outdoors and cooking plant-based goodies.

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