By Fern Ross
Confession: I love going upside down. I’m not always very good at it, but I don’t really care about that because it’s so fun to just play.
To me, inversions represent what many of us are missing in our day-to-day, as we try and navigate our way through this often-tiring thing called adulthood (I’m sure I’m not the only one here). Going upside down is an expression of pure joy: getting our feet somewhere above our head equals getting out of our busy minds and into our breath and bodies.
But they’re not easy, oh no. Aside from the obvious strength required, inversions also demand mental focus and a willingness to confront fear. They teach us discipline, commitment and patience, to also to work hard without being attached to the outcome.
Case in point: I’ve been trying to nail the elusive handstand for three years and I still feel like a flying Bambi most days, but I practice it because I love it. It makes me feel vibrant, alive and carefree. And also, if we waited to be perfect at something before we did it, we’d never get anything done, would we?
Here are five reasons why you should give inversions a go. And no, looking super cool on Instagram isn’t one of them.
They flip our perspective
Quite literally, inversions change our point of view. Initial effort and fear aside, getting upside down encourages the entire body to relax as the nervous system regulates our natural ‘fight or flight’ response. The result? Our stress levels lower, we begin to feel calm, and when we’re calm, we’re more able to see an alternative solution to a challenging situation.
They boost our brainpower
If you’ve tried holding any balance posture, even those that don’t involve being on your head or hands, you’ll know that they require complete focus and attention; a total commitment to the pose. Balancing poses require us to concentrate and be in the moment. The more we do them, the more we train our ability to be focused and present, even under pressure, both on and off the mat.
They encourage us to confront our fears
Going upside down is scary. Unless you’re an ex-gymnast or acrobat, being inverted takes a lot practice. But that’s not a reason to avoid it. After all, if we waited until we felt 100% confident and ready, we’d never get anything done. Sometimes you just need to bite the bullet, remind yourself that it’s more than OK to be less than perfect, and give it a go. Think of how confident and strong you feel – both physically and mentally – whenever you finally do something you’d avoided due to fear. Put yourself out there, don’t get attached to the outcome and simply enjoy the process of trying and learning.
They nourish our brains and bodies
Getting your feet above your heart is beneficial for the lymphatic and endocrine systems, as well as blood circulation, and the inversion doesn’t need to be fancy to reap the benefits. Simply lying on your back with your legs up the wall for a few minutes is enough to encourage the lymphatic system to drain and boost blood circulation, nourishing both mind and body and providing a total reset.
They enable us to build strength
While there’s no escaping the fact that inversions require equal amounts of strength and flexibility, they also demand many commendable emotional qualities: discipline, commitment, patience and resilience to name a few. There is no quick route to being able to hold handstand or headstand: these are poses that require you to show up and do the work, but also know when to back off and be patient, and accept that repetition, time and a hefty dose of letting go are key. After all, as B.K.S. Iyengar famously said: ‘It is through alignment of the body that I found the alignment of my mind, self and intelligence.’