New Life Yoga Magazine
Why are inversions so highly recommended in professionally designed movement and wellness programs? by Sarah Dawn Kellett

Why are inversions so highly recommended in professionally designed movement and wellness programs?

Inversion has actually been used to effectively boost health across the globe for centuries. Hippocrates used it to treat patients and yoga practitioners have used inversion to maintain daily wellness. They have been aware that our bodies are designed to go upside-down, and simply performed this natural movement with mindfulness, connecting it to the breath. Handstands, cart-wheels, tricks in trees, and more were all once a natural part of human movement and this basic function is still mandatory to keep us healthy and nurture the body, mind and spirit. If we do not use this natural ability, then we do not counteract the effects of gravity.

Overtime, this can lead to an extremely undesirable impact on the body, as gravity is a strong and continuous force on all of us. Not to mention, it only pulls in one direction. The body must have regular pull in the opposite direction to maintain a balanced state.

Fortunately, many of the effects will begin to reverse when inversion is reintroduced as part of a daily practice. Even for those in great physical health, reversing the effects of gravity can be an amazingly beneficial experience.

Many studies have monitored the changes that occur in our organs, spinal column, and all of our vital systems when we employ postural variety and/or reverse this constant directional pull imposed upon us by gravity. The results have been impressive, suggesting that even modern day wellness and movement programs must ideally include inversion therapy to optimize the benefits.

The most physically noticeable effects of inversion include an increase in brain function, lymphatic drainage, circulation and blood purification, digestion, elimination, hormonal regularity, relaxation, spinal mobility, spinal strength and more. Inversion which incorporates traction (usually performed in a hanging manner) also offers increased height, alignment, and spinal decompression, often relieving back and neck pain and helping to boost immunity.

When we go upside-down, the veins are no longer competing with the pull of gravity to move blood back to the heart and re-circulate. As a result, the valves (blood pumps) of the veins and the heart get a rest while the blood flow is naturally increased. This elevates the bioavailability of oxygen and nutrients to the cells, thus supporting and strengthening cellular function in the entire body. Areas normally located above the heart, including the brain, scalp, facial skin, etc especially benefit from this great change of position. The brain has a chance to bathe in blood, increasing the creation of neurotransmitters. This neural activity is imperative for healthy brain function, a healthy emotional state, and more. Without this invaluable maintenance, neurotransmitters will usually decrease with age. Dr. Robert Martin wrote that the brain operates 7% faster and 14% more accurately during inversion.

The eyes, ears, and skin reap the great benefits as well. More blood in the capillaries of the face offers quite a beauty treatment. The color and tonicity of the skin can be significantly enhanced with this richly increased supply of oxygen and nutrients available to nourish the cellular structure.

Circulation of the lymphatic system is also boosted. This system is responsible for clearing toxins from the tissues, thus playing a vital role in our immune system. Lymphatic fluid must be circulated efficiently in order to effectively filter and kill foreign bacteria, lymphocytes and more. Often in inactive individuals, lymph will accumulate in the lower body. This is usually an uncomfortable (sometimes painful) circumstance which may include hemorrhoids, swelling in the legs, varicose veins and more. Inversion can often offer relief from these conditions by encouraging movement of the lymphatic fluid through the lymph nodes for filtration. This is necessary for everyone to maintain a healthy, high-functioning, energetic system.

Yoga teachers commonly recommend inversion to improve digestion and elimination. When in the upright position, stool moving from the ileocecal valve through the ascending colon is moving against the force of gravity and may prove to be difficult. When inverted, it is moving with gravity. The subsequent pressing of the stool against the intestinal walls stimulates a stronger peristalsis and encourages movement. Variations (such as twists during inversion) are also useful to increase elimination. Relief from constipation can help with general fatigue, tension and anxiety, skin disorders (such as acne), and bad breath.

The entire colon as well as all the organs, have a chance to decompress, get more blood flow, and tone. Prolapsed and sagging organs will often return to their normal position with regular inversion.

When inversion is performed with traction, there are even more benefits. The constant force of gravity pulls in the opposite direction and there is space to balance and help correct subluxations in the spinal column. This gently aligns and decompresses the spine, often relieving tremendous pressure off of our precious spinal discs. Hanging upside-down is the easiest way to ease strains caused by compression and to lift the weight off the superimposed segments of the body, helping to diminish back pain. Prime back care results are experienced when the supportive muscles of the spinal column are synergistically lengthened and strengthened from performing this therapeutic movement. The muscles, tendons, and ligaments of the back and torso are all stretched, creating a great feeling of release. Studies have proven it to be helpful in correcting or greatly improving the condition of herniated nucleus pulposis, herniated discs, spondylolisthesis, lumbar osteoarthritis, sciatica, paralytic scoliosis and inclinatory skeletal defects (rib angle changes, thin discs, and compression wedging of the vertebrae). Only when the spinal column is in good health, can the rest of the body function properly. It is normal to see a dramatic change in overall strength, immunity, and emotional wellbeing by toning and taking care of your spinal column in this way.

Inversion offers all-powerful nourishment that can dramatically boost overall health and wellbeing, as well as play a significant role in maintaining homeostasis in a healthy body. Most benefits can be experienced in just 3-5 minutes of upside-down time. A habitual inversion break 3 times a day is highly recommended. It is important to create a comfortable and easily accessible place to make this a regular and truly enjoyable experience in daily life. The use of props is highly recommended for those who would like to hang in traction or for those not completely comfortable performing headstand or handstand.

Our favorite movement tool is the OmGym Sling Set, which offers comfortable, full inversion in traction, as well as a huge variety of enjoyable movements to create health, balance, relaxation, and athletic ability. This unique and versatile tool is used by beginners, as well as highly advanced movement lovers looking for effective core strengthening, high-level neurological development and more. It is light, easily portable, makes a beautiful addition in any home, and strongly compliments any health and wellness program. The OmGym Sling Set is simply a must-have for yoga lovers, fitness and health enthusiasts, and those in need of starting a healthy movement program!

Author: Sarah Dawn Kellett © 2007 OmGym LLC