An inversion is most generally categorized as any asana in which the head is below the heart. And while headstand, handstand, forearm stand, and shoulder stand immediately come to mind, there are gentler variations that may be more accessible for students early on in their inversion relationship: Down dog, standing forward folds, legs up the wall, and happy baby are lovely ways in which to get things moving in new directions without jumping in the deep end. Like all things in life, the suggestion to get upside down should not be universally prescribed. There are certain contraindications that should be observed so as not to cause or exacerbate previous injuries or illnesses: unmedicated high blood pressure, some heart conditions, neck injuries, recent stroke, detached retina, glaucoma, and epilepsy are common issues that should be addressed before engagement.
Inversions reverse the blood flow in the body and improve circulation: Work smarter, not harder! Use gravity to provide the brain with more oxygen and blood thus increasing mental functioning, and improving concentration, memory, and processing abilities.
Increase immunity and prevent illness: The lymphatic system is a key player in keeping the body healthy. As lymph moves through the body it picks up toxins and bacteria to be eliminated by the lymph nodes. Because of lymph moves as a result of muscle contractions and gravity, getting upside down allows lymph to more easily travel into the respiratory system where much of the toxins enter the body.
Energize: Feeling that 3 pm slump coming on? Get upside down! Heating inversions such as handstand, headstand, and forearm balance get more blood moving to the brain, which results not only in physical invigoration but mental revitalization as well.
Relax: While the heating inversions (handstand & headstand) energize, inversions of the cooling type (shoulder stand & legs up the wall) work to calm the nervous system, thereby activating the parasympathetic nervous system and producing feelings of balance and calm.
Stay humble: And before we “get it”, those many attempts remind us of how much more we have to learn, and how truly it is about the said “journey”, not simply the destination.
A new perspective on life: As we become accustomed to reacting to our world in a predictable way, inversions teach us through metaphor that there is always another way to approach the situation/person/problem