Mind and Body - Yoga and inversions

Updated - November 17, 2021 06:59 am IST

Published - December 16, 2009 05:14 pm IST

Sarvangasana (Shoulder stand)

Sarvangasana (Shoulder stand)

A yoga practice without inversions is like a marriage without a spouse, lemonade without lemons, or a body without a heart - the essence is missing.

--Aadil Palkhivala

Yoga from a different perspective

Inversions are a unique feature of yoga. Yoga texts define the concept behind inversion poses as viparita karani , which means “opposite process”.

Indeed, inversions offer a different perspective; physically, the body is supported differently, enhancing focus and concentration.

Inversion yoga asanas place the feet above the head during the practice. This elicits as much fear as fascination. It is very important to be aware of body alignment and to adapt these poses gradually, under the guidance of a yoga teacher, according to one's physical ability and comfort level to reduce the risk of injury. These poses call for proper breathing, a heightened awareness and significant core and shoulder strength.

A word of caution

Inversions are not meant for those who are pregnant, menstruating, have pre-existing injuries especially neck injuries, high blood pressure, detached retina, epilepsy and heart conditions.

Benefits of Inversions

Yoga inversions are strengthening postures, which when performed correctly, offer special benefits.

They strengthen the muscular-skeletal system, the shoulders, back, abdomen and legs that work against gravity.

They stimulate circulation as everything moves in an opposite direction; blood pumped from the heart to the belly and legs is reversed.

Head stand and shoulder stands stimulate the glandular and hormonal systems resulting in better balance and increased vitality.

Do you know?

Ayurveda considers that many of the body's impurities are in the lower abdomen. Inversions help getting rid of these.

Inversions increase your ability to breathe well while you are upside down! The back and stomach muscles provide the support to hold the legs straight.

Inverted asanas

1. Sarvangasana (Shoulder stand)

This asana is referred to the queen of all asanas.

1. Lie on a mat or folded blanket, bend your knees, contract your abdominal muscles and lift your back supporting it with your palm.

2. Bring your feet and knees together, and straighten your bent knees toward the ceiling.

3. Breathe slowly, gaze softly into the chest, relax the facial muscles and make sure there is no pressure or tension in the neck region. Stay in this position for a while; beginners can remain for 30 seconds and gradually increase it to 5 minutes.

4. Exhale, bend the knees, and return to center and rest for several seconds.

Beginner's tip

Beginners can start in a half inverted variation by only lifting the legs upwards to a 45 degree angle and practice along a wall. This eases the pressure and weight on the neck and shoulders. If you feel your alignment is not quite right, come down and do it again.


Stimulates the thyroid and prostate glands and abdominal organs

Improves digestion

Relieves stress, depression and alleviates insomnia

2. Halasana (Plough pose)

From the shoulder stand position; slowly lower both your feet to the floor behind your head. Your legs should be straight and toes on the floor.


Stimulates the thyroid and prostate glands and abdominal organs

Stretches the legs and spine

3. Adhomukha svasana (Triangle pose)

Raise your trunk and come up on all fours. Lift the hips off the floor so that your body forms the shape of a triangle. Relax the neck and lengthen your back. Slowly, return to starting position.


This pose strengthens the back, neck, shoulders and legs.

It improves circulation and restores energy.

4. Sirsasana (head stand)

A good way to turn your world around and look at it from a new angle.

To do the headstand you need to balance well. This asana is referred to the king of all asanas.

Come to a kneeling position. Place your forearms on the center of your mat and your head between the hands. Now , walk the feet up toward the elbows. Slowly raise both feet together into a head stand.


This pose strengthens the back, neck, shoulders and legs.

It sends blood to the brain and nourishes the brain cells.

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