Author: Sonia Gei Min Chuan
Sonia Gei Min Chuan
Inverted asanas reverse the action of gravity on the body; instead of everything being pulled towards the feet, the orientation shifts towards the head.
Generally, these practices are refreshing and revitalising. They improve health, reduce anxiety and stress, and increase self-confidence. They also increase mental power, concentration and the capacity to sustain large workloads without strain.
Inverted asanas encourage blood to flow to the brain, nourishing the neurons and flushing out toxins. Blood and lymph, accumulated in the lower limbs, pelvis and abdomen, are drained back to the heart, then circulated to the lungs, purified and re-circulated to all parts of the body. This process nourishes the cells of the whole human organism. The enriched blood flow also allows the pituitary gland to operate more efficiently, tuning the entire endocrine system. This has a positive effect on the metabolic processes and even on ways of thinking.
While the body is in an inverted asana, the breath becomes slow and deep, maximizing the exchange of carbon dioxide and oxygen, and generally encouraging correct respiration. In addition, the abdominal organs: the liver, spleen, stomach, kidneys and pancreas, receive a powerful massage, helping them to perform their functions more efficiently.
Traditionally, inverted asanas are used to sublimate and transform sexual energy into spiritual energy. The aim of the practices, in this context, is to stimulate the chakras, open sushumna nadi and raise the kundalini to bring about psychic awakening. While it is unlikely that kundalini will be raised through practice of these asanas alone. Inverted postures undoubtedly improve the quality of meditation and concentration, refining the consciousness and enabling it to enter unexplored levels of the mind.
This important group of asanas must be performed correctly and with the utmost care. It is emphasized that these are powerful practices and that the following observances should be strictly adhered to:
• Time of practice: do not practice inverted asanas until at least three hours after taking food, and do not practice immediately after vigorous exercise.
• Equipment: always practice asanas on a folded blanket or yoga mat thick enough to protect the vertebra of the neck and back of the head, never practice on a soft mattress, spring bed or cushions.
• Duration: beginners should only remain in the final positions for a few seconds. Once an asana can be maintained without experiencing the slightest difficulty, the duration may be increased gradually until it can be held for the recommended time.
• Rest: always follow inverted poses with shavasana, rest until the breath and heartbeat are completely normal then practice the recommended counter pose.
• Precaution: do not practice near furniture or anything that might impede a free fall to the floor. During a backward or forward fall, aim to break the fall to the feet. While falling, the body should be completely relaxed, never tense. If any discomfort occurs, you should discontinue the practice.
• Cautions for inverted asanas: people recovering from operations, or going through pregnancy, people with inflammatory conditions or who are presently infirm, and the elderly, should carefully note the contra indications for individual asanas and those cautions and contra-indications are given below. They apply to all inverted asanas, not just the ones in this section.
Inverted asanas include:
• Semi-inverted positions where the trunk and head are horizontal but the feet are raised above the head e.g. poorwa halasana. Generally they are not so challenging but more care is needed if they are also strenuous practices, e.g. padotthanasana when performed with both legs raised.
• Semi-inverted positions where the head is below the trunk, where the contra indications must be fully observed, e.g. pada hastasana, and more so if the asanas are also strenuous, e.g. shirshapada bhumi sparshasana.
• Fully inverted positions such as sarvargasana or shirshasana, which again may be strenuous, e.g. vrikshasana.
People suffering from heart conditions, high blood pressure or back conditions, especially slipped disc, should not practice these asanas. Those with illnesses that make the blood impure should not perform inverted asanas until the blood is purified. People with arteriosctorosis glaucoma, an active ear infection or any disease of the brain should refrain from inverted postures. Those with cervical problems should not practice postures where the neck is bearing weight. Women should not practice inverted postures during pregnancy or menstruation.
Practice note: assume the postures slowly and with control. Inverted asanas with their counter poses are usually placed at the end of an asana program. Never combine myaurasana with inverted asanas in one practice session.
Right handed people will find these asanas are easily learned with the right side leading. They should then be practiced with the left side leading as a counter balance.
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