Teacher’s Corner: Inversions Part I: Benefits & Joys

Teacher’s Corner is a blog series written by one of mang’Oh’s most experienced (and well-loved!) teachers, Chintamani Kansas. Chintamani also teaches and mentors in mang’Oh’s Teacher Training each year, and leads the yearly Meditation and Yoga Series at mang’Oh. We will be posting Teacher’s Corner every few months, featuring a detailed look at issues and topics that are of particular interest to yoga teachers and enthusiasts. We hope you will enjoy Chintamani’s wealth of experience, as well as her fun and witty look at the world of yoga teaching!

I began this blog post thinking it would be simple to say why I love Inversions and why Inversions can be such a wonderful component of an intermediate/advanced yoga class. In the process of writing, I realized there are so many interesting, and necessary conversations to be had about Inversions. This blog post is Part I in a series we will be posting on Inversions.

Of course the short answer is: many people think Inversions are delightful and fun! We look forward to them! Where else do you get to do them? (Office meetings? Cocktail parties? Family Gatherings? Nope! Yoga is one of the only places Inversions can happen!)

Many yoga teachers choose to teach Inversions—and many choose not to. And that is wonderful. Any yoga practice has its own riches to offer in terms of connecting to Self, and working with body and mind.

Many yoga teachers are moving away from teaching Inversions in group classes. For one thing, class timeframes matter. If we only have an hour together, Inversions take up a LOT of time. We may decide a longer hip opener or twist opportunity is more beneficial to our class.

Safety concerns can also cause an instructor to cast Inversions by the wayside. Modern science and “drop-in/group-class” culture present legitimate concerns. (More on this in our next article in the series.)

For now, assuming that the causes and conditions have been set up for the group class to have a safe and meaningful Inversion exploration, what are the Benefits?

Photo of the author practicing handstands in the park

In the case of Sirsasana (headstand) and Salamba Sarvangasana (shoulder stand) the risks of presenting these asanas in a group-class setting may very well outweigh the benefits; however, core-strengthening would be the primary benefit to these asanas. (More on this in our next article in the series.)

Adho Mukha Vrkasasana (handstand) and Pinca Mayurasana (forearm stand) have many benefits, including, but not limited to:

  • Bone health maintenance, particularly in key vulnerable areas as we age
  • Muscle strengthening in arms, shoulders and other groups
  • Core strengthening (to the max!)
  • Brain-stimulation, improved functioning, reduced age-related issues
  • Improved proprioception, space-relations and balance
  • Blood and lymph out of legs, back into system

Potential emotional/mental/spiritual benefits:

  • Just Fun
  • Many find Inversions Energizing
  • Reduce Fatigue
  • Lifts mood and can help with mild depression
  • The arms are seats of feeling empowered (think Rosie the Riveter). When you stand on your arms, you feel like “you CAN do it!”
  • Personal stuff may arise to examine and work with skillfully

Shining a light on the potential emotional and mental benefits:

Inversions are sometimes the best poses to bring up our “stuff” and help us see it, and WORK with it skillfully. When Inversions are offered, often the flow of the class is stopped. The teacher may demonstrate, speak about alignment points, and walk around making eye-contact with everyone. Teachers may offer to spot or assist.

If the teacher is offering individual assistance, the question arises: do I want to be “seen” by someone today? Why or why not? Do I want this teacher to “see” me or do I want to hide today? Do I need alone time? Do I not want to be touched today? Do I deserve to ask for help, or assistance, or attention? Why or why not?

Other questions may arise: Am I in my ego today? Am I pushing myself too hard? Am I questioning my own strength today? Am I ready to take the next step today, or is today not the right time?

And then there is that exhilaration when we get into that darn pose!

Sometimes the things that come up for us during Inversions are the same things that come up for us in our daily life.

Inversions can sometimes be the best link between body and mind. When I am in triangle, I may not be confronting my fears or my “baggage. Inversions can be the perfect catalyst to nudge us into self-reflection and growth.

 

Photo of Hana Ivandic, in a happy supported headstand

Enough from me, let’s hear from a couple mang’Oh Inversion Enthusiasts about their experiences!

Inversions take practice and because of the fact that you cannot do them right away you learn how to listen to your body and respect it for all the other things it can do for you. You grow faith that one day you will be able to do it, and if you practice regularly you get the sense of gratitude for accumulating necessary strength for inversions. And what are inversions if not just a metaphor for life obstacles? 🙂

-Hana Ivandic, Personal Trainer, world traveler, mang’Oh Yoga Teacher Training class of 2018

 

Inversions give me a different and sometimes new perspective on life!  

I recall when I started yoga a few years ago I couldn’t do a handstand nor headstand nor a forearm stand none of them!  Questions of was I weak, I just can’t do it, I’m not strong enough… Self judgement overwhelmed me because it’s all based on FEAR!  

Not every class incorporates inversions into a sequence but when they do, it’s a moment of EUREKA when I challenge myself to just do it and try.  The days I was able to achieve that moment of cradling my head and raise my legs into a headstand and not wobble and stay still is an overwhelming feeling of accomplishment for myself. While in C’s class I never tried to do a forearm stand and then all of a sudden I was able to raise my legs against the wall and my arms and shoulders didn’t collapse …. that moment truly was a WOW of release. All the tension that we hold in our feet all day and gravity pulling down on our body inversion just helps us flip it around.  

Those moments reinforce why I took this path of yoga… a new journey of this so called thing we call life.  A perspective I forget on how far I have come from healing myself mind, body & spirit. 

Inversions are always necessary in life for your body because we are always looking for grounding on our feet… holding so much of ourselves at our feet, but turning yourself upside down is also great and letting things flow to your head.  

-Leslie Tseng, Chef finding balance with Yoga, mang’Oh Yoga Teacher Training graduate 2017

 

About the author:

Chintamani teaches classic and speciality yoga in New York City. She is a longtime Teacher Trainer in the mang’Oh 200-hour Yoga Teacher Training and leads the bi-annual mang’Oh Meditation Series.  She continues to study yoga, yoga therapy and other healing modalities, including Anatomy, Pilates and Mindfulness Meditation. Chintamani is certified in Vinyasa Yoga, Embodied Anatomy and Yoga and Kane School Pilates.

Chintamani’s classes blend mindfulness, alignment and joyful movement; encouraging safety and skillfulness, as well as freedom and expression. Chintamani’s mission is to get us all to move, breathe, find our joy, and feel connected and smart.