We all know the scenario. We’re in a vinyasa class, coming into a wide-legged forward fold when the instructor says, “Now if headstand is in your practice, feel free to invert now.” Or maybe you’re in a down dog, and the instructor tells you to take a few handstand hops. If you’re an upside-down junkie, this is no big deal. But if you’ve never found yourself inverted before, this moment may cause more stress than it’s worth. We highly recommend finding inversions in a monitored setting with close attention from an instructor (like our upcoming Inversion Workshop with Jackie!) before popping up. But first, let's get down to what all the fuss is about and the benefits of a headstand. For starters, an inversion in yoga is defined as any posture with your hips above your head. So, even the common Down Dog is an inversion! Besides looking cool, why are people getting upside down in the first place? If movement is medicine, what does inverting provide? We hope, with the following knowledge, you'll be motivated to get upside down with purpose.
Benefits of a headstand and all inversions:
1. Inverting shifts your ENERGY
While each inversion has its own set of benefits, we can basically place them in two categories: energizing or soothing. This is mostly due to the effects of reversing the direction of blood flow. You know that feeling after being upside down where you get a little head rush and feel UNSTOPPABLE? Or where you kick your feet up at the end of the day & suddenly RELAX? Reversing the direction of blood flow with hips above the head encourages venous return (blood flow to the heart). Your body notices this increase in blood flow & therefore, takes less effort to pump blood itself. This decreases your heart rate & blood pressure. It gives your heart a break from all of its hard work, allowing your body to restore. But in a more vigorous pose like a handstand, you’re recruiting your full body strength at the same time for that energizing rush! Reversing the blood flow can help drain the lymphatic system as well, encouraging the flow of lymph to support the immune system. End your practice with a handstand if you want that burst of energy for the day, & wind down at night with legs up the wall.
2. Builds STRENGTH & teaches efficient muscle recruitment
Holding the weight of your body upward, while upside down, takes a lot of strength-- strength that our limbs can't often find on their own. This is where your core comes in. When you engage all the way from those deep abdominals, you can zip up the body into sustainable alignment, finding your float! Handstand practice helps you not only build this kind of deep strength, but helps you foster the self awareness needed to recruit the help of those subtle muscle groups. Start working your core today through more basic postures like plank & chaturanga.
3. Keeps you YOUNG at heart!
Consistently taking yourself out of your comfort zone physically & mentally is key to staying sharp, no matter what your age! Inversions ask us to stay calm in odd positions. They ask us to be okay with falling, flailing, and looking silly. Inversions ask us to dare greatly & shift flip our perspective. And these postures can be extremely empowering and fun! Find a wall, a workshop, or a buddy & play!
Register for our upcoming Inversion Workshop 102!! BOOK HERE.
If you’re interested in learning more about the benefits of a headstand and all inversions, check out these great articles:
10 Awesome Health Benefits of Headstand
Supported Headstand (discusses benefits as well as technique)
10 Reasons to Do a Headstand Everyday (Love #5 in this article. HAHA.)