In our lives off the mat, we rarely if ever go upside down, and it is natural that for many of us the idea of inversions causes some trepidation. However, inverted yoga poses have many positive effects on the body (and the mind), causing B.K.S. Iyengar to call headstand and shoulderstand the king and queen of yoga poses. Different inversion have specific benefits, but in general, they stimulate the endocrine and immune systems, improve digestion, and tend to have an energizing yet calming effect, while also increasing mental focus. In addition, the act of facing fears about going upside down in and of itself can have a hugely positive effect on your confidence and self-esteem. 

This week we will focus on inversions, moving from simple to complex, focusing on safety and good alignment, and on preparatory poses that open the shoulders and hips, and that improve arm, shoulder, and core strength as well as balance. So even if you aren’t ready to go completely upside down this week, these classes will serve you well down the road. If you already do inversions routinely, we will also cover how to align yourself effectively to make your inversions more effortless so that you can derive maximum benefit from them, and advanced variations that will help you expand your inversion practice.

A word of caution: Inversions should be avoided if you have high blood pressure, glaucoma, or a detached retina. Headstand and shoulderstand can in very rare instances lead to serious neck injuries, if done with poor alignment, if a previous neck injury, spinal misalignment, or weakness exists, and if done over long periods of time while ignoring neck pain. If you do not feel comfortable doing these poses, I will provide alternatives. Moreover, if your neck ever starts feeling the least bit uncomfortable in either of these poses, come out of the pose carefully but immediately, seek the advice of a good yoga teacher or other expert, and stop doing the pose until you have figured out how to do it safely.