Inversion Yoga

The salamba shirshasana or headstand is a yoga pose that would be considered an inversion pose. Basically, all inversion poses involve the lifting of your feet above your head. Some other well known inversion poses include the salamba sarvangasana, more commonly known as the shoulder stand and the viparita karani which is the half shoulder stand.

At a more basic level, lying on the floor with your legs placed on a chair is a form of inversion pose.

The Concept of Inversion Yoga Poses

The yoga texts express the concept of an inversion pose as viparita karani. The translation of this means “the opposite process”. It is all about different perspective facilitation. If you consider the physical point of view here, you create this different perspective with an inversion pose that enables you to see the world in a different way.

Also you will use a different method to support your body. But as you probably know, yoga not just about the physical exercises, you assist other factors when you perform yoga. A number of yoga poses are designed to help you to break both physical and mental habits.

They do this by developing your ability to be more adaptable to change. This is a lot more beneficial to you than being stuck with your existing habitual responses. The practice of these poses increase your capacity for transformation and growth and touches all aspects of your life.

Another benefit of inversion poses in yoga is that it can improve your circulation. In order for you to perform inversion yoga poses you will need a high quality mat such as this fitness and yoga folding exercise carry mat.

The Theory behind why Inversion Poses help

Inversion poses providing benefit to you is one of the theoretical concepts of yoga. There is a belief that many of the impurities in our bodies are contained in the lower abdomen. The act of raising our feet above our head calls gravity into play and helps to move these impurities.

The Ayurvedic system calls the area that we move the impurities to “fire” or “agni”. Agni relates specifically to your “digestive fire” which is found above your lower abdomen. So, when you are upside down, and using slow and deep breathing associated with yoga, you will be able to burn off any impurities that were stuck previously.

The amount of Benefit you receive from Inversion Yoga Poses depends on your ability

While it is certainly true that inversion yoga poses can provide a lot of benefits to you’re your ability to perform the poses correctly and hold them will determine just how much benefit you will receive. Inversion poses are often difficult to perform correctly and holding them can be a real challenge.

The shoulder stand and the headstand should not be performed in the following situations:

  • You are pregnant
  • You are menstruating
  • You are suffering from neck pain
  • You have neck injuries
  • You have low or high blood pressure

Also you should not attempt either of these inversion poses without performing the necessary preparatory poses. If you fail to do the correct preparation poses then you risk injury to your neck area and as a minimum you could suffer painful stiffness.

If you find these inversion poses very difficult and uncomfortable it will be more beneficial to you to perform the modified versions. Or you can simply work on different yoga poses that will provide additional strength in the areas you need.

Prerequisites for the maximum benefit from Inversion Poses

You need to know that to get the maximum benefits from inversion poses there are specific prerequisites. These are:

  • A strong neck (which we have already discussed)
  • Strong abdominal muscles
  • Strong back muscles
  • The ability to breathe well while in the inversion pose

Your ability to breath well while in the poses will improve with regular practice of all yoga poses. Having strong back and strong abdominal muscles is important as you will need these to hold your legs straight. When you can master the inversion poses they will open up your thoracic cavity which will increase your ability to breathe while upside down.

Tips to help you perform the Inverted Poses

We will start with the half shoulder stand:

  • Avoid locking your chin
  • Lengthen the amount of time that you exhale
  • Maintain your weight on your wrists and elbows and not on your head
  • If you are experiencing difficulties with your neck then do not attempt to pull your legs and torso into a vertical position as you would with a full shoulder stand. You will place even more pressure on your neck if you do this.
  • After you have completed the pose be sure to perform the shalabhasana and bhujangasana balancing postures (and others) afterwards


Here are the tips for the shoulder stand:

  • You do not need to concern yourself too much about keeping your arms and elbows parallel. If you are not proficient with this posture you will create additional rtension in your neck.
  • Make sure that you perform the balancing postures as you did with the half shoulder stand


Tips for performing the Headstand Inversion Pose:

  • When you are in the headstand position, never make any adjustments. If you think that you are incorrectly aligned then come down from the pose and start again.
  • Never attempt to make this your first yoga pose. Also you must perform the prerequisite poses beforehand. You could end up with a severe injury or as a minimum stiffness of the neck. Over time this can become really serious. There is a good reason why you must perform the preparation poses first.
  • When you are learning the pose use a wall for support
  • Use all of your fingers to support your head including your thumbs and little fingers
  • Be sure to find the right head position as this will ensure that you evenly distribute your weight. It is not a good thing to have to press down with your elbows as compensation
  • You need to think that your whole body support is distributed evenly across your head and your elbows
  • Avoid placing too much of your weight on the back of your body as this will apply additional pressure to your neck
  • Avoid the use of props that free up your neck or your neck muscles will contract
  • Before you do any balancing poses rest your neck. You can lie down and bend your legs

Fear of Inversion Poses

A lot of people are fearful of performing inversion poses. The best advice here is to begin a pose gradually. With the shoulder stand comes there are a few variations that you can perform to develop your flexibility and strength. These will also help you to overcome your fears.

To get the best results from inversion or any other yoga poses you need to have the right equipment available. Take a look at our high quality yoga equipment at