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Inverted Poses

 Yoga Head Stand

The Purpose of Inverted Poses

Inversions complete the work that has gone before in the other asanas, in that they:

• Calm and internalize the life-force and the mind.

• Draw life-force up the spine toward the brain.

The inverted poses efficacy in helping us draw energy to the brain is due to the influence of "subtle gravity." This is an external force that normally draws our consciousness down toward a materialistic consciousness by drawing our energy down the spine when we are upright. (In the same way, subtle gravity's physical counterpart draws blood down into the lower body.) When we are inverted, however, some or all of the spine is upside down, so subtle gravity work  for us rather than against us, drawing our inner energies toward the spiritual eye.

Alignment and Technique


• Sarvangasana or viparita karani: don't let the body collapse down onto your foundation. Rather, press down actively through the backs of the arms and shoulders, and lengthen up through the legs. This keeps the spine open and the entire body actively involved in the pose. Press into the floor with the back of your head to help keep the neck open (and happier!). And use blankets to protect your cervical spine.

• Adho mukha shvanasana: don't dump your body weight onto your hands and arms. Rather, use your arm and shoulder strength to lengthen from the floor back and up through the spine and through the sitbones.

• Sasamgasana: keep the spine open by placing very little weight on the crown of your head, and by keep the legs very active so your spine will be stretched.

• Balasana: here, effort of any kind is inappropriate . Maintain openness in the spine by lengthening the spine as you enter the pose. Then physical gravity will keep your spine open as you relax in the pose. 

Another guideline that particularly applies to some inversions (e.g., sarvangasana, halasana, viparita karani) is to move into and out of the poses very slowly and under control.

Cautions for Inverted Poses

• Contraindications: cardiovascular disease (heart problems, high blood pressure, history of stroke or heart attack, etc.), menstruation, pregnancy beyond first trimester, recent spinal injury, or any inflammation or disease of eyes, ears, or sinuses. Diabetes usually contraindicates inversions, but some diabetics are free of the complications that would contraindicate inversions; when in doubt, consult a physician.

• Most injuries from inverted poses occur while moving into or out of the poses. If you don't have the strength to move into and out of the poses slowly, with control, and without putting undue stress, weight on the neck, don't attempt inversions until you have that strength.

• Use 1-2 (or even more) blankets under the shoulders in poses that could stress the neck (e.g., sarvangasana, halasana).

• Never turn your head while your neck is under stress (e.g., sarvangasana, halasana, setu bandhasana, sasamgasana, etc.).

• The body needs time to recover (e.g., redistribute the blood) from inverted poses, so give yourself adequate rest after an inversion. This is especially true for those with low blood pressure.