You devoted yogis already know that a regular yoga practice can transform the mind and body.
Asanas (yoga poses) can help create a powerful core, strong, sexy arms and a more centered mind (although there are many more advantages). Besides forming a more toned body, certain poses can even have age-defying effects. Not that beauty benefits should be the reason for your practice, but it’s certainly a nice perk.
Inversion poses, such as headstands, handstands and shoulder stands, can produce a natural facelift and other youth-giving properties. Think about it. While you’re hanging out upside down, you are essentially reversing the powers of gravity on your body, if only for a little while.
Flinging your world upside down gets circulation pumping to your face and neck, and helps relax the muscles. Over time these poses can reduce signs of aging, such as wrinkles and sagging skin. They also make the spine more flexible, which helps slow the aging process.
Listen to your own body and its rhythms. Don’t perform inversions until you feel ready, as doing them improperly can result in injury. These poses are typically for intermediate and advanced students and should be completed with a certified yoga instructor.
Downward-Facing Dog (Adho mukha svanasana) Changing your relationship to gravity can feel unnatural at first. If you are a beginner, start with downward-facing dog. To perform this pose, start on your mat on your hands and knees. Knees should be hip-distance apart. Exhale and straighten your knees, booty in the air, pushing back onto your heels. Firm your arms and place your head between them. Hold for 1-3 minutes.
Forward Fold (Uttanasana): Feet hip distance apart, fold over your legs, letting your head hang. Take hold of opposite elbows and sway from side to side, imagining all your thoughts dripping out of the crown of your head. Stay for 10-20 breaths.
Bridge (Setu bandha sarvangasana): Lie on your back, arms alongside your body. Bend your knees, with your thighs and feet parallel to your hips. Exhale and rock your hips upward, pressing your feet and arms into the floor. Lift until your thighs and booty are about parallel to the floor and you are staying on top of the shoulders. Hold for 30 seconds to 1 minute. Release on an exhale.
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Plow (Halasana): Lie on your back, arms alongside your body. Swing your legs up over head. Your toes may or may not touch the ground. Press your hands into your back torso or extend them behind you along the floor. You can stay here for 10-20 breaths.
Shoulderstand (Salamba sarvangasana): Lie on your back, arms alongside your body. Bend your knees, keeping the heels close to the body. Exhale and slowly push your feet away from the floor. Curl your knees toward your face and press your hands into your back torso. Raise your pelvis and lift your feet to the ceiling. Stay in the pose for about 30 seconds, and gradually add on more time as you become more comfortable. You can always use blankets to support your neck.
Headstand (Sirsasana): Kneel on the floor. Clasp your hands and place the back of your head in them. Inhale, lift your knees and slowly walk your feet toward your head. When you’re ready, exhale and lift your feet from the floor. Keep the legs together and lift them at the same time. Straighten your legs all the way, with the heels together. Stay in the pose for about 10 seconds, and gradually add on more time as you become more comfortable. Beginners should use a wall as support.
Handstand (Adho mukha vrksasana): Start in downward-facing dog. If you’re a beginner, use a wall for support. Step one leg inwards, keeping the other extended. Take a few practice hops, then kick yourself upside down. You may only be able to manage the hops for now. If you achieved the position, center your gaze into the room and hold for 10 seconds. You can gradually add on more time as you become more comfortable.
If these poses are too advanced for you, try simply putting your feet above your heart for a few minutes a day. Relax against a wall or sofa with your feet in the air and concentrate on your breathing. Spend at least five minutes a day upside down—in whatever form is best for you. Be sure to breathe deeply, as deep breathing detoxifies your skin from the inside out.
Skewing your center of gravity may feel unnatural at first, but it can also bring you new perspective. As you perform inversions, you will grow more confident—physically and mentally.
If you have any of the following conditions, speak with your doctor before attempting inversions:
- Glaucoma or detached retinas.
- Severe structural asymmetries.
- Previous spinal injuries (disc problems).
- High blood pressure.
- Recent facial surgery.
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