Can hanging upside down improve your health? As a physical therapist and yoga instructor, I’ve seen how practicing headstands can decrease stress, improve sleep, aid digestion and strengthen core, back and shoulder muscles.
Athletes can especially benefit from adding inversions post-workout. Inversions speed the removal of lactic acid from the legs, helping in muscle recovery after running or leg strengthening. As a collegiate high jumper, I was always told to end my practice with inversions. Doing so helped my legs recover faster with less soreness the next day.
Full headstands and shoulder stands take practice and muscular strength to perform safely. However, almost anyone can perform a simple inversion posture.
A simple inversion, to begin with, is called Waterfall pose. It utilizes a yoga block and provides multiple health and recovery benefits.
- Lie on your back, feet flat on the floor with knees straight towards the ceiling.
- Press your feet down firmly, lifting your hips.
- Place a block (or two) under your sacrum to support your pelvis. The sacrum is the bony area at the bottom of your spine.
- Keep your head, arms, shoulders and hands on the floor, palms facing the ceiling.
- Slowly bring your right knee towards your chest, then move your left leg towards your chest.
- Slowly lengthen and straighten both legs up. Feel free to modify, keeping knees bent.
- Hold the pose for a few minutes, inhaling and exhaling deeply.
- Get out of the pose by bending both knees down, slowly placing feet back on the floor.
- Slide the block away from your back and take a minute to breathe before changing positions.
The pose can also be performed without a block. Simply lie on your back with your buttock against the wall and legs resting on the wall in an “L” shape.
Once in the pose, you will begin to feel drainage out of your leg muscles and an overall calmness as your heart rate decreases.
Try including the Waterfall pose after a workout or before you go to sleep. As you progress, you may want to try more advanced headstands and inversions. Work slowly into these advanced yoga postures and seek expert help to avoid injury or strain.
Jenni Freie, PT, DPT, OCS is a physical therapist with OrthoCarolina Pineville.