By Amruta Kulkarni, CYT 250
Inversions are powerful tools in Yoga. Like elevating the feet when a person is in shock as part of first aid, inversions send the blood from the extremities back to the core and the head. These asanas bring enormous benefit to the lungs, heart and circulation system. The effects of gravity, temporarily reversed, mean that during an inversion, the lungs experience greater blood flow to the upper lobes, and lymph flows more easily away from the ankles and feet. People with varicose veins, for example, are frequently told to elevate their feet.
However, Yoga practitioners who suffer from several pre-existing conditions should approach inversions carefully, or not at all. As beneficial as inversions can be, they can trigger problems for those with vulnerabilities. The most common conditions precluding inversions are:
High or low blood pressure
Of these conditions, neck pain and neck injuries are the most poorly understood in their relationship with inversions. Shoulder stands and head stands place enormous compressive force on the upper spine and can cause nerve irritation and compression. Numbness and tingling in the hands and arms may result, along with pain and potential nerve damage. Those with old neck injuries must be careful not to re-injure, but even those without a history of problems must carefully observe correct posture and resist the temptation to perform over-long inversions.
In pregnancy, inversions are generally avoided because of the risk of falling. For experienced Yogis, who practiced inversions before pregnancy, these poses may be continued so long as feelings of shortness of breath or heaviness are not experienced. Some experts even recommend inversions as promoting blood flow to the uterus.
During menstruation, instructors have typically advised against inversions because of a fear of congestion, or even increased risk of endometriosis. However, scientific evidence to back up these risks is not available. Many women do practice inversions during their cycle and do not experience any problems.
Those with high or low blood pressure may react negatively to the increased blood flow to the brain brought on by inversions. At its most dangerous, this can increase the risk of stroke, but evidence has shown that gradually introducing inversions can strengthen the circulatory system and normalize pressure.
In conclusion, a blanket statement forbidding inversions for a group of people cannot be made. Individual differences and experiences must be taken into account, and above all, the body must be listened to during Yoga.
© Copyright 2011 – Aura Wellness Center – Publications Division
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