Yoga inversion poses provide an easy way for those just starting out with yoga to reap the benefits of going upside down. Inverting allows the blood to flow more smoothly to your brain and sensory organs, so your heart doesn't have to work so hard. Most people think of more challenging asanas, such as handstand or headstand, but there are a number of inversion poses available to beginners.
Standing Forward Bend
The standing forward bend is among the simplest of poses to get into. All you have to do is bend at the hips so that your torso dangles toward the floor. A bonus benefit is that it helps to relieve sinus pressure. Hold this pose for one to two minutes, breathing deeply. For best results, practice two or three times a day. You can also complete your standing forward bend with your feet wide.
Activate the Pose
If you want a more active feel in your forward bend, place your hands on the mat and lift your heels as high as you can. Although you won't lift up into handstand, you will work nearly all of the same muscle groups as if you were, including your chest, shoulders, and abdominals. Just make sure to follow a few guidelines.
- Keep most of your weight in your hands and shoulders, with very little in your feet.
- Keep your heart lifted and your shoulders tucked away from your ears.
- Draw your tummy in and lift your hips high
Hold for five to ten breaths, rest in your forward bend, then try again. Complete two or three rounds.
Legs Up the Wall
Legs up the wall is another simple inversion. It is a great pose to reduce sleeplessness and wind you down for bedtime. It's also an easy way to increase circulation in your hands and feet. Once you get into this pose, hold it for five to ten minutes. Feet up the wall is very relaxing for some, so it may be helpful to set a timer just in case you fall asleep.
- Begin sitting up tall, with the tops of your feet flat on the floor and your hips on your heels.
- Reach back and wrap your hands around your heels.
- Bend forward at the hips, reaching your head toward the floor directly in front of your knees.
- Allow your back to round as you lift your hips and draw them toward the top of your mat.
Make sure the very top of your head is on the floor. Depending on your flexibility or arm length, you may not be able to keep hold of your heels through the full range of motion. In that case, it is okay to take hold of your ankles or shins instead. Hold for 10 to 20 breaths before releasing slowly. Rest in child's pose for a few breaths, then complete another round or two.
Caution: Those with neck and spine issues should avoid this pose entirely.
Downward Facing Dog
Downward dog is a step up from the previous poses, because it requires stability and strength in your wrists and shoulders. This basic inversion is offered in most yoga classes taught in-studio. Hold for 10 to 15 breaths, take a quick break in child's pose, then repeat once or twice.
Dolphin is a great alternative to downward dog for those who experience wrist sensitivity or tenderness. It is also a great pose to open the shoulders and strengthen the muscles of your chest. Those with very tight hamstrings may find this pose difficult. If that is the case for you, a slight bend in your knees can lengthen and take the pressure off your spine. Hold for 10 to 15 breaths before releasing down to child's pose. Repeat at least one more time.
Tripod Headstand Prep
Although the headstand is an advanced yoga move that shouldn't be practiced by novice yogis, beginners can benefit from executing a headstand prep.
- Begin in your forward bend with your feet spread wide.
- Place your hands on your mat, underneath the line of your shoulders
- Lift your heels up high and bend your elbows, tipping forward slowly until the top of your head comes down on the mat.
- If you have the flexibility, allow your heels to come back down to the mat.
Hold here for 10 to 20 breaths or for as long as feels comfortable. Make sure you have properly warmed up before attempting this pose. It's a great item to add towards the end of your practice, before you begin wind down.
Work Your Way Up
Yoga inversions are a great way to increase circulation and blood-flow throughout your body. Contrary to popular belief, they are accessible to beginner yogis as well as practitioners at other levels. Try the simpler beginner yoga inversions first, then work your way up to more advanced inversions (such as wheel pose). This will allow you to build your practice safely and effectively.