What Are Inversions In Yoga?

New to yoga? You might have heard “yoga inversions” mentioned in class, or come up in conversation when you were out with your yogi friends.

It’s not as technical as it sounds, however.

What Are Inversions In Yoga

Yoga inversions simply refer to any pose (yoga asana) that involves inverting the body or, in other words, being upside down.

A handstand is a prime example of this! For a yoga pose to class as a yoga inversion, the pose must simply involve the head being positioned below the heart or hips.

So, not all yoga inversions involve your feet coming off the floor.

But there’s more to yoga inversions than that. 

And if you were looking for a short guide on everything there is to know about yoga inversions, you’ve landed at the right place. Keep reading.

The Benefits Of Yoga Inversions

As it turns out, inversions do not just occur in yoga. Inversion occurs in various exercise regimens and sports – including gymnastics, Pilates, and swimming.

In fact, inversion therapy—a practice that involves being inverted at a certain angle for a set amount of time—is performed to achieve various benefits.

This nicely leads us onto the benefits of yoga inversions. And these include:

  • Improving balance
  • Improving proprioception (bodily awareness)
  • Increasing strength
  • Improving posture
  • Improving mobility
  • Improving brain health and cognitive function
  • Increasing blood circulation

Needless to say, there are quite a few benefits to yoga inversions. 

And if you are considering starting yoga, or have done yoga before, there’s a good chance that you will perform, or have performed, a yoga inversion at some point!

Examples Of Yoga Inversions

As mentioned, a prime example of a yoga inversion is a handstand.

This involves balancing on your hands with your feet positioned where your head usually is, so there really isn’t a better example of a yoga inversion!

But yoga inversions don’t all involve lifting your feet off the ground – something you might have thought to be the case. Any yoga pose that involves the head being beneath the heart or hips qualifies as a yoga inversion. 

So, performing yoga inversions really isn’t as hard as it sounds.

For example, forward fold pose (uttanasana), downward-facing dog pose (adho mukha svanasana), and even bridge pose (setu bandha sarvangasana) all involve positioning the head lower than the heart and hips, making all of them legit yoga inversions.

Advanced yoga inversions do exist, however, and great examples of these include the handstand, headstand, crow pose (kakasana), crane pose (bakasana), and scorpion pose (vrischikasana).

Are Yoga Inversions Safe? – The Risks Of Yoga Inversions

Performing yoga inversions – is it really safe?

It goes without saying that being upside down comes with its risks. This can depend on the level (angle) of the inversion and how long the inversion is held for.

Yoga inversions can also be dangerous if attempted without adequate training, safety measures, or guidance. For example: attempting headstands or handstands before having the necessary strength and skill.  

So while inversions do offer various benefits, they also present health disadvantages and risks.

Being inverted for an excessive amount of time can lead to dizziness and lightheadedness. 

What Are Inversions In Yoga (1)

Without prior experience, being inverted can result in accidental falls that can cause various injuries, such as sprains, fractures, and broken bones.

But that doesn’t mean yoga inversions are unsafe. 

Performing yoga poses is safe, as long as precautions are taken to minimize the duration of the inversion and any risks of falling onto hard surfaces.

Can Beginners Do Yoga Inversions?

If you’re a total newbie to yoga, can you do yoga inversions?

You might be glad to know that the answer is yes – beginners can do yoga inversions, as there are many yoga inversions that are beginner-friendly and, for the large of majority of people, achievable no matter the age or fitness level.

As prime examples, forward fold pose (uttanasana) and downward-facing dog pose (adho mukha svanasana) are two common yoga poses that can be performed with adequate form by most yoga beginners – if not straight away, then within a matter of weeks of consistent training.

Due to this, even beginners can reap the benefits of yoga inversions, such as increasing blood flow to the brain, strengthening muscles and joints, and improving general balance and mobility.

How To Perform Yoga Inversions – Safety Tips

Of course, there are some yoga inversions that are harder than others. The difficulty of the yoga inversion can also depend on the age and fitness level of the person doing the yoga inversion.

But despite that, performing any kind of yoga inversion is achievable with the right approach. 

This is especially easier if the yoga inversion is taught by an experienced yogi or certified yoga teacher.

As with most yoga poses (asanas), attempting yoga inversions should be done gradually with guidance on performing the pose with correct form. 

If you are new to yoga, never rush into the pose, or attempt to force progress on an inversion you are not ready for!

And with most yoga inversions, especially the more advanced yoga inversions (such as handstands), it’s also a good idea to take safety measures.

This can include using a soft yoga mat, crash mat, or laying cushions on the floor to make attempting the pose safer and more comfortable.

Conclusion

Shall we summarize the above points? The answer to the central question is that yoga inversions are any yoga pose (asana) that involves the head being positioned lower than the heart of hips.

Many people think yoga inversions sound technical, or only refer to advanced yoga poses, such as handstands.

But this is far from the case, as even downward-facing dog pose qualifies as a yoga inversion!

Yoga inversions offer various benefits when performed, including increasing strength and blood circulation (to the brain), as well as improving overall balance, mobility, and proprioception.

There are risks with performing yoga inversions, however, such as lightheadedness (from prolonged inversion) and injuries resulting from accidental falls.

Despite that, yoga inversions can be performed by beginners, especially when guided by a yoga instructor.

Angela Frederik
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