Practicing yoga inversions (Viparita Sthiti) including yoga headstand, shoulder stand and their variations positively impacts the four major systems of the body: cardiovascular, lymphatic, nervous and endocrine.
The action of reversing gravity improves overall health and shifts the orientation to the head, which affects our mental, emotional and spiritual psyche reducing anxiety and stress while increasing self-confidence and concentration.
How Yoga Inversions And Yoga Headstand Benefit The Body
The circulatory system is comprised of the heart and lungs, which feeds the body oxygen, and removes waste products from the cells. Arteries pump freshly oxygenated blood from the lungs outward, and the veins return blood to the heart using a low-pressure system called venous return system. The venous return system uses a muscular movement or gravity to move the blood along. One-way valves prevent backwash and keep the fluids moving towards the heart.
The heart gets a break when going upside down because when upright it is consistently working to ensure that freshly oxygenated blood makes it way up to the brain. When inverted in a yoga headstand or other yoga inversions, this pressure is reversed allowing blood to move to the brain with minimal effort.
The lungs also benefit from yoga inversions being upside down because when we are upright gravity naturally pulls the fluids of the body downwards and the lower lungs are more saturated with blood. Going upside down in a yoga inversion ensures more blood flow to the upper region of the lungs, bringing more oxygen-to-blood exchange.
The lymphatic system is the body’s drainage system and protects the body from germs, viruses, bacteria and fungi. This system is a network of vessels known as lymph nodes. Lymph nodes filter unused proteins, waste materials and excess fluids from the body dumping the remains back into the circulatory system where they are removed from the body.
This system works the same way as blood returning to your heart via the venous return system. Because the lymphatic system is a closed pressure system, it has one-way valves that keep lymph moving towards the heart. When one goes upside down, the entire lymphatic system is stimulated, thus strengthening your immune system.
There are several endocrine organs or ductless glands in the human body which when bathed in blood absorb the nutrients from the blood and secrete hormones for the proper functioning of a balanced and well-developed body and brain. When the glands fail to function the hormones are not properly produced as they should be and the body starts to deteriorate.
Yoga Inversions: Yoga Headstand + Shoulder Stand
Headstand and shoulder stand are referred to as the king and queen of all yoga asanas. Having different energetics, it is important to practice them on a daily basis for overall health.
Headstand (Sirsasana) stimulates the pituitary and pineal glands while bringing blood flow to the brain cells. These glands are responsible for growth, sex hormones and the overall chemical balance of the body.
Practicing headstand develops more of the masculine qualities of willpower, a sharpness of the brain, clarity of the mind and it stimulates the nervous system. The required focus when balancing in a yoga headstand creates centeredness and presence which is calming and soothing. Headstand increases the gastric fire (Agni) and produces heat in the body, which improves sleep patterns, memory and vitality.
Shoulder Stand (Sarvangasana) positively affects the thyroid, parathyroid glands and lymph glands, which are located in the neck region. While practicing shoulder stand, there is a firm chin lock, which increases blood supply to these glands that secretes hormones for the proper functioning of the body and brain.
Practicing shoulder stand cools and neutralizes the body, sedating the nervous system. Shoulder stand develops more of the feminine qualities of patience and emotional stability. The gravitational pull of going upside down also affects the abdominal organs relieving constipation, urinary and uterine disorders.
Yoga Inversions + Yoga Headstand Cautions, Contraindications
Please note, if you suffer with high blood pressure, eye disorders, cardiovascular diseases, kidney, spinal, neck or shoulder concerns, it is best to consult with a qualified yoga instructor before practicing yoga inversions.
Also, during menstruation, women are advised to avoid yoga inversions. The energy of the body at this time in a woman’s cycle is moving downward. Going upside down during menses disturbs this natural rhythm and can result in a feeling of shakiness, disorientation or nausea.
Yoga Inversions During Pregnancy
During pregnancy yoga inversions are also recommended. Sirsasana (headstand), Sarvangasana (shoulder stand), Setu Bandha Sarvangasana (bridge pose), and Viparita Karani (inverted lake pose) are all beneficial but require using props for safety and comfort especially in the later trimesters.
Time spent upside down every day, especially is one of the best things you can do for yourself. This category of yoga asanas create an essential balance physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually and brings health and vitality to the body while calming and soothing the body, mind and spirit.
- Yoga, A Gem for Women, Geeta Iyengar, 2005
- Light on Yoga, B.K.S. Iyengar, 1966
- Yoga for Your Type, An Ayurvedic Approach to Asana Practice, Dr. David Frawley, 2007
- Ayuryoga Teachers Manual, The Ayurvedic Institute, New Mexico, 2014
- Yoga, The Path to Holistic Health, B.K.S. Iyengar, 2001
- Yoga Kurunta: Using Wall Ropes, Chris Saudek, The Yoga Place, 2001