“Penetration of our mind is our goal, but in the beginning to set things in motion, there is no substitute for sweat.” - B. K. S. Iyengar
A recently study found that more than 20 million Americans practice yoga. While scientific studies about yoga health benefits are rapidly on the rise, only one small study has been done about the benefits of inversions. It found an improvement in Heart Rate Variability (HRV), which is an indicator of healthy autonomic nervous system function.
However, yoga practitioners are in agreement -- inversions are the King and Queen in the chessboard of poses. But why? Here are the benefits people have been experiencing in the last 2,000 years while standing on their heads.
Rush of Blood to The Head
Not just a Coldplay album. Inversions increase bloodflow to the face, scalp and brain, which means more oxygen and nutrients reach those areas than is typical in an fully upright day. Inversions can also lead to improved circulation elsewhere. Just as the blood more easily reaches the head, deoxygenated blood in extremities can more easily flow to the heart. This flipped process is also said to relax and strengthen the compression of certain blood vessels in the brain.
Headstands stimulate and provide refreshed blood to various endocrine glands, which help improve your body’s overall functionality. These glands include the Hypothalamus and Pituitary, which control growth hormone; the Pineal gland, which regulates melatonin; and the Thyroid, which helps regulate metabolism and sex hormones.
Although not in the head, inversions are also thought to contribute to Adrenal gland health by promoting a more rapid flushing of toxins. A better functioning adrenal gland improves health in a variety of ways including promoting proper cardiovascular function, properly utilizing carbohydrates and fats, and promoting healthy gastrointestinal functions.
Gravity Gut Glory
In addition to the Adrenal gland stimulation and that benefit for digestion, headstands increase body heat and what many call, “digestive fire.” The idea behind this theory is that the intestines are cleansed by reversing the pull of gravity to release congested blood and other toxics for faster processing. This, along with the gland stimulation, gets metabolism cranked and digestion optimized.
Max Strength Required
Perhaps the most obvious benefit is the workout for your muscles. Headstands strengthen your core -- engaging obliques, rectus abdominus and the transverse abdominus. Inversions also increase upper body strength and stamina. Arm, shoulder and back muscles work hard to keep the pressure off of your head and neck.
Face Fears / Get Perspective
It’s hard to look cool on your head. They pull you away from your fears of looking silly or trying something new and difficult. These difficult and humbling poses do wonders to pull you into non attachment. And let’s not forget that they literally provide a new perspective. Last but not least. It’s FUN. No really. You’re on your head, just like when you were a kid and it’s good for you. So let your stress go, focus on the pose and let the joy of mindfulness enter.