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Invert Yo’Self: Yoga Inversions for Every Level of Practice


Photo credit: Stories by M Photography

Going upside down as a child … fun. Going upside down as an adult … terrifying. How did this happen? When did we lose our sense of adventure?

I say we bring it back.

Adulting with the weight of the world on our shoulders — now more than ever — we could really use a temporary break from the constant effects of all that gravity.

So maybe you aren’t itching and ready to pop up into a handstand just yet. No worries, there are other ways to get your inversion on. An inversion is a yoga pose that gets your head below your heart so there’s something for everyone! To prove it, we’re going to give you several options for each level of practice.

Benefits of Inversions

Inversions are awesome because they promote efficient circulation to the brain and lymphatic system function to improve immune health while decompressing your spine. Many of the inversions are also serious core and upper-body strengtheners and improve balance and coordination — which is great for all of us, especially as we age.

There are two different types of inversions — calming/cooling and energizing/heating.

The Level 1 poses listed below as well as most of the Level 2 inversions have a calming/cooling effect on the body. Expect to have your mind be more at ease as you watch your stress and anxiety fade away. These poses soothe the body and mind by overriding the body’s fight-or-flight response.

The more advanced inversions listed below will get you heated and all jazzed up physically and mentally. They build confidence like nobody’s business and can teach you how to be more courageous and overcome fear. They can be intimidating at first but they’ll teach you a lot about yourself and keep you humble. But they’re also super fun! Think of it like recess.

Level 1 Inversions

Legs Up The Wall. Place a bolster (or thickly folded blanket or two) parallel to and a few inches away from a wall and lie on your back on top of the blanket(s) with your hips as close to the wall as possible, legs extended up the wall. You can adjust the position of the bolster for comfort.

Downward-Facing Dog. For step-by-step instructions to get into this one, check out this short video.

Supported Plow. If you’ve never practiced this pose before, seeking the assistance of an experienced yoga teacher who can offer you the appropriate prop (like a chair or a wall) so that your neck and shoulders are adequately protected.

Level 2 Inversions

Shoulder Stand. From Supported Plow, work to extend one leg at a time straight up over your head.

Dolphin. Start in Forearm Plank with your shoulders directly over your elbows, palms flat on the mat, elbows and wrists lined up and fingers active and extended. Press your hips up and back as you walk your feet in toward your elbows.

Supported Headstand. The set-up is very similar to Dolphin Pose but your fingers are interlaced and your palms are separated. Then, place the top of your head between your wrists and press your forearms firmly into the ground. Walk your feet in close and work to lift a leg or two. Still too nervous to go for it? Try it away with your back close to a wall.

L-Pose. Set up in a shallow (hands closer to feet) Downward Facing Dog with your heels up on a wall. Keep your hands where they are and place one foot on the wall at hip height then press into the wall to straighten the leg and lift the other leg up to hip level as well. Keep your legs active and line up your hands, shoulders and hips.

Level 3 Inversions

Forearm Balance. From Dolphin Pose, work to extend your legs overhead.

Handstand. From Downward-Facing Dog, step one foot in slightly and shift your weight forward so that your shoulders are directly over your hands. Press into your front foot and you reach through the toes of your back foot and hop up into Handstand.

NOTE: While the benefits to inversions are massive and several are considered therapeutic, if you have a history of chronic health conditions such as asthma or hypertension, back or neck injuries or if you are pregnant, please consult your doctor before performing any of these poses. 

What’s your favorite way to invert yo’self? —Alison

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