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7 Yoga Inversions – From Accessible to Ambitious

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a woman is performing a modified shoulderstand in yoga_yoga inversions
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Experience the benefits of yoga inversions through a variety of poses that will get you upside down, regardless of your level.  

Shift your energy with 7 types of inverted yoga poses from accessible to advanced, and explore a new perspective in your practice.

What are Inversions in Yoga?

Inversions in yoga are poses where the heart is positioned higher than the head. 

Some inverted postures are soothing and grounding, while others require significant energy, strength, flexibility, and coordination. 

Although full or traditional yoga inversions require the legs to be lifted off the ground, you can still reap the benefits from other inverted yoga poses that are not classically considered inversions but still turn you upside down and place your heart higher than the head.

Benefits of Practicing Upside-Down Yoga Poses

Practicing yoga upside down can offer a variety of benefits, including: 

Stress Reduction

Placing the head below the heart activates your parasympathetic nervous system, calming your psyche and allowing your mind to settle. 

Immunity Boost

Inversions may positively affect your lymphatic system, which in turn boosts your immune system. [1]

Better Posture

Depending on the posture, different inversions can have a strengthening or relaxing effect on your spine. For instance, a standing forward bend (Uttanasana or Prasarita Padottanasana) can help your spine lengthen and decompress, while Shoulder Stand (Salamba Sarvangasana) or Headstand (Salamba Sirsasana) strengthen the muscles that support the spinal column.

Improved Balance

Many inversions challenge coordination and proprioception. This can help to improve overall balance and spatial awareness.

Increased Flexibility

Many forward folding inversions are great for stretching your neck and back, as well as your hamstrings. Alternatively, inverted backbends such as Wheel Pose (Urdhva Dhanurasana) improve the flexibility of your spine, shoulders, and hip flexors.

Previously, inversions were believed to improve circulation and blood pressure. However, a 2013 study concluded that while inversion practice may affect your heart rate, it does not affect your blood pressure. [2]

7 Varieties of Yoga Inversions – Beginner to Advanced

Child’s Pose (Balasana)

a woman is practicing yoga, doing Child’s Pose (Balasana)_yoga inversions

A grounding and restorative yoga pose, Child’s Pose is accessible to practitioners of all levels, including complete beginners and students with mobility issues.

How to Practice:

  • Start on hands and knees.
  • Slowly lower your hips towards your heels and extend your arms in front of you. If your range of motion is limited, bring your arms alongside the body.
  • Rest your forehead on the ground or a yoga block, creating a gentle curve to your entire spine.

Pro tip: To create space for your rib cage and belly, consider widening your knees and bringing your big toes to touch before you lower the torso down. 

Standing Forward Bend (Uttanasana)

a woman is practicing yoga, doing Standing Forward Bend (Uttanasana)_yoga inversions

Uttanasana uses gravity to decompress the spine and relieve neck tension while simultaneously stretching your hamstrings and lower back.

How to Practice:

  • Stand with your feet hip-width apart and your arms by your sides.
  • On an inhale, raise your arms overhead. As you breathe out, fold at the hip, bringing the upper body towards your thighs.
  • Rest your hands on the floor (or yoga blocks) and let your head hang, relaxing the neck.

Pro tip: If your hamstrings or lower back are tight, keep your knees slightly bent.

Downward Facing Dog (Adho Mukha Svanasana)

a woman is practicing yoga, doing Downward Facing Dog (Adho Mukha Svanasana)_yoga inversions

Downward Facing Dog tones the whole body, stretches the spine, and strengthens your wrists, arms, shoulders, chest, and core.

How to Practice :

  • Start in Table Top with your toes tucked under.
  • Press into your hands and feet and lift your hips towards the sky, creating an inverted V-shape with your body.
  • Reach down through your heels and press your chest towards your thighs, keeping your shoulder blades on your back.
  • Bring your gaze to the tip of your nose and breathe smoothly. 

Pro tip: It’s okay to have a soft bend in the knees; continue to create a long line from the wrists all the way to your hips and down to your heels.

Bridge Pose (Setu Bandha Sarvangasana)

a woman is practicing yoga, doing Bridge Pose (Setu Bandha Sarvangasana)_yoga inversions

An upward-facing mild inversion, Bridge Pose strengthens the legs and glutes as it stretches the hip flexors and quadriceps.

How to Practice:

  • Lie on your back, with your knees bent, and your feet positioned hip-width apart.
  • Lengthen your arms alongside the body and press your feet into the floor as you engage your glutes and lift your hips up.

Pro tip: To keep your knees from splaying apart, you may place a yoga block in between your thighs.

Wheel Pose (Urdhva Dhanurasana)

a woman is practicing yoga, doing Wheel Pose (Urdhva Dhanurasana)_yoga inversions

Upward bow pose is an advanced backbend that helps to improve hip and spine flexibility while strengthening your shoulders, glutes, and legs. 

How to Practice :

  • Lie on your back, with your knees bent, and your feet positioned hip-width apart.
  • Bring your hands flat on the floor on either side of your head, fingers directed at your shoulders.
  • Press your hands and feet strongly into the ground. As you inhale, lift your body up towards the sky.

Pro tip: If you can’t lift yourself all the way up, you may find a midpoint as you press your hands and feet into the ground and lift lightly onto the crown of your head. Hold here and maintain good alignment for several breaths. Work to create an even backbend across the entire length of your spine. 

Shoulder Stand Pose (Salamba Sarvangasana)

a woman is practicing yoga, doing Shoulder Stand Pose (Salamba Sarvangasana)_yoga inversions

This inversion ventures further into the advanced yoga territory, as it requires holding the body upside-down while lifting the weight from the neck and shoulders.

How to Practice:

  • Lying on your back, lift your legs up and overhead, raising your hips off the ground.
  • Place your hands on your lower back for support.
  • Align your feet, hips, and shoulders in an upright position.

Pro tip: If you need to modify, keep the legs on the diagonal, instead of straight up. Distribute the weight between your neck and shoulders to avoid a neck injury.

Crow Pose (Bakasana)

a woman is practicing yoga, doing Crow Pose (Bakasana)_yoga inversions

Crow Pose is an empowering arm balance that can be easily modified for first-timers. 

How to Practice:

  • From a squatting position, place your hands on the ground, shoulder-width apart.
  • Lean forward, bend your elbows, and lift your hips, pressing the backs of your knees into your triceps.
  • Feel your weight shift into your hands, and notice how that naturally inspires your feet to lift off the ground. 

Pro tip: Instead of looking down at the ground, keep your neck long and your gaze slightly forward. Practice core strengthening postures such as Plank Pose to prepare for the lift-off of Crow Pose.  

a chart with 7 inverted yoga poses, yoga inversions

When Not to Invert: Precautions of Yoga Inversions

Before practicing yoga poses upside down, it is important to consider the risks and contraindications that come with an inversion practice. [3]

  • Avoid inversions if you suffer from any acute or chronic medical conditions that may affect the practice. This includes issues with balance; spine, shoulder, or neck injuries; glaucoma; [4], or chronic pain. 
  • If you are pregnant, consult your physician before practicing yoga inversions, and always proceed with caution. Adjust your practice as your pregnancy progresses, possibly eliminating certain inversions.
  • Listen to your body, even if you do not have any preexisting conditions. If you suddenly feel pain, discomfort, or lightheadedness, it’s best to ease off or exit the pose.
  • Depending on the type of inversion you are about to practice, it is important to properly warm up the parts of your body that will be affected by the posture you have chosen. If the inversion is quite taxing, take your time to recognize the preliminary stages to enter the pose and use additional stretching postures to cool down afterward.
  • Consider adding props like a yoga wheel or a yoga bolster to your inversion practice, whether it is to enhance the pose or to help you relax. 

In Conclusion

As you can see, yoga inversions are not reserved for advanced practitioners. In yoga, inverted poses provide a different perspective and offer various health benefits.

If you are new to inversion postures, be cautious and practice with an experienced yoga teacher, or make the most of our comprehensive and user-friendly yoga app that can provide you with guidance in a safe and reliable way.

Disclaimer This article is intended for general informational purposes only and does not address individual circumstances. It is not a substitute for professional advice or help and should not be relied on to make decisions of any kind. Any action you take upon the information presented in this article is strictly at your own risk and responsibility!

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