Inversions

Open tabs for instruction and more pictures. Then click on the pictures to enlarge them.

Extended PuppyExtended Puppy Pose View

Come into table pose on all fours. Shoulders above wrists, knees below hips. Walk hands forward, dropping chest to floor. Exhale, move hips halfway back toward your heels (keep a slight curve in lower back). Keep your arms active, elbows up, off the floor. Drop forehead to the floor or blanket let the neck relax. You should feel an intense inner-shoulder stretch. Breathe into the back, feeling a long stretch in the spine. Hold 30-60 seconds, then release your buttocks down onto heels.

Benefits: calms the mind, relieves tension and insomnia, stretches spine and shoulders, strengthens and stretches the arms, hips, and upper back, enhances flexibility of spine
Contraindication: high blood pressure

 

Rabbit PoseRabbit Pose (Sasangasana) View


Begin in child’s pose. Press forehead slightly on knees. Extend arms back and hold on to your the outside of heels or ankles. Lengthen arms and gently shift body weight forward. Come to the crown of the head. Inhale and on the exhale send tailbone up and away from the neck. Feel the stretch from the back of the neck to the tailbone. Gently roll forward and back, exploring the edge of the stretch and increasing spinal range of motion. Contract your abdominal muscles as you hold the pose for 5 to 10 breaths. Then bring head up above heart and rest on heels. A folded towel can be placed under head and knees for comfort and support.

Benefits: Relieves head, neck, and back pain. Stretches back, arms, and shoulders. Maintains mobility and elasticity of spine and back muscles. Improves digestion. Aids insomnia.
Contraindications: Recent injuries of neck, head, shoulders, upper extremities, back and knees.

 

 

bakasanaCrow Pose or Crane Pose (Bakasana) View

Benefits: Improves balance. 
Strengthens wrists, forearms and abdomen.
Contraindications: Headaches, insomnia.
Tips: Place a block in front of you, and rest your forehead on it to help with balance. Place a pillow in front of your head to protect from falling forward.
Modifications: Try lifting one foot at a time.

 

 

One-Legged Half Wheel

One-Legged Half Wheel (Eka Pada Setu Bandha Sarvangasana) View

Lay on your back, arms along sides, palms down. Bend knees, place feet flat on mat. Walk feet as close to buttocks as comfortably possible. Turn heels out slightly (outside edges of feet parallel with edges of mat. Thighs parallel, ground feet and palms down and lift hips. Keep knees directly over ankles. Place hands on lower back for support, elbows resting on mat. Rock weight from side to side, pull shoulder blades closer together. Step feet together, press firmly left foot into ground, raise your right leg up. Hold for five deep breaths, actively pressing left foot into mat, lift hips. Lower right foot mat repeat on other side. Gently lower hips down to mat. Counter-pose by hugging knees to chest to release lower back.

Benefits: increases flexibility of spine, deeply stretches chest, shoulders, and back of neck. stimulates thyroid gland, abdominal organs, improves digestion, reduces fatigue, anxiety, stress, headache and insomnia. Has both a calming and energetic effect on the body and mind.
Contraindications: Neck injury

 

Half Wheel Pose

Half Wheel Pose (Bada Setu Bandha Sarvangasana) View


Lay on your back, arms along sides, palms down. Bend knees, place feet flat on mat. Walk feet as close to buttocks as comfortably possible. Turn heels out slightly (outside edges of feet parallel with edges of mat. Thighs parallel, ground feet and palms down and lift hips. Keep knees directly over ankles. Wrap hands around ankles OR Clasp hands below pelvis and extend through arms. Rock from side to side and pull your shoulder blades together. Hold posture for five deep breaths or longer. Gently lower hips down to mat. Counter-pose by hugging knees to chest to release lower back.

Benefits: increases flexibility of spine, deeply stretches chest, shoulders, and back of neck. stimulates thyroid gland, abdominal organs, improves digestion, reduces fatigue, anxiety, stress, headache and insomnia. Has both a calming and energetic effect on the body and mind.
Contraindications: Neck injury
Modifications: Easier: place a block under sacrum, let your sacrum rest on block. Advanced: Try lifting one leg at a time to the ceiling.

 

Bridge Pose

Bridge Pose (Setu Bandha Sarvangasana) View


Lay on your back. Bend knees, soles of the feet parallel on mat, as close to buttocks as possible. Inhale. On exhale press feet and arms into mat, lift the hips up towards the ceiling. Keep thighs and feet parallel. Clasp the hands under back, straighten arms. Roll one shoulder under and then the other, bringing shoulder blades together for support. Lift the hips higher. Draw the chest up toward the chin. Stay in the pose 30-60 seconds. Unclasp hands. Exhale rolling the spine slowly down onto mat one vertebra at a time. Relax, let knees knock together.

Benefits: calms the mind and relieves insomnia, strengthens/stretches neck and spine, opens chest, stimulates thyroid. Relieves menopausal and menstral symptoms. Aids digestion. Therapeutic for asthma, high blood pressure, osteoporosis, and sinusitis
Contraindications: Neck injury
For a restorative variation try supported bridge: place block under lower back (sacrum), rest on block.

 

Shoulder Stand

Shoulder Stand (Salamba Sarvangasana) View


Fold blankets and stack for support under shoulders. Then lie on the blankets with your shoulders supported, head on the floor. With arms on the floor alongside torso, bend knees and set feet on mat, heels close to buttocks. Exhale, pressing arms into floor, push your feet off floor, bringing thighs over torso and lift, bringing knees toward the face. Bend elbows, lay backs of upper arms on the blanket and spread palms against the lower back. Raise pelvis over shoulders, raise torso relatively perpendicular to floor. Walk hands up back (toward floor). Inhale, straighten knees, pressing heels up toward ceiling. Soften throat and tongue. Firm shoulder blades, move chest toward chin. Press backs of upper arms and tops of shoulders into blanket, lift upper spine away from floor. Hold pose for 30 seconds up to 3 minutes. To come out, exhale, bend knees to chest, roll your back slowly and gently onto the floor.

Benefits: Stretches shoulders and neck. Calms the mind, relieve stress and mild depression. Stimulates the thyroid and abdominal organs, improves digestion. Reduces fatigue, alleviates insomnia. Therapeutic for asthma, infertility and sinusitis.
Contraindications: diarrhea, headache, high blood pressure, menstruation, neck injury. Use caution under care of experienced teacher if not done before or if pregnant.

 

Supported Handstand (Adho Mukha Vrksasana_2Handstand (Adho Mukha Vrksasana Pose) View

 

 

Full Plow Pose

Plow Pose (Halasana) View

Fold blankets and stack for support under shoulders. Then lie on the blankets with your shoulders supported, head on the floor. Begin on back, arms palms down at your sides. Inhale, with abdominal muscles, lift feet up off floor, raise your legs vertically (90 degree angle). Lift hips off floor and support hips and back with your hands. Breathe normally, sweep legs over your head till your toes touch the floor. Back is perpendicular to floor. This can be difficult initially, so work slowly and gently and hold for a few seconds and increase time with practice. Be careful not to strain your neck. Hold the pose, let your body relax more with each steady breath. To come out, gently and smoothly bring your legs down on exhalation.

Benefits: Strengthens and opens neck, shoulders, abs, legs and back muscles. Calms nervous system, reduces stress and fatigue. Stimulates thyroid gland, plow with catstrengthens immune system. Therapeutic for menopause symptoms.
Contraindications: neck injury, diarrhea and high blood pressure. Avoid this pose during pregnancy and during the first few days of menstrual cycle. Consult your doctor before practicing if you have a recent chronic disease or spinal disorder in the recent past. Modification: Can be done with a cat 🙂

 

ear pressure poseEar Pressure Pose (Karnapidasana) View

 

 

downward facing dogDownward Facing Dog (Adho Mukha Svanasana) View

Start on the floor on your hands and knees (table pose), knees below your hips and wrists below your shoulders. Spread and ground through the palms as you curl your toes under. With your next exhale, raise the hips and straighten the legs without locking the knees. Rotate the upper arms outward, expanding the collarbones. With the head gently held between the arms, draw the shoulder blades back, away from the ears. Try to give the arms a break by using more strength from your legs. Push away from the floor, lifting the tailbone. Rotate the thighs inward and gently sink the heels towards the floor.

Benefits: stretches the back body, strengthens arms, wrists, and spine, tones core muscles.
Contraindications: carpal tunnel syndrome, injury in the wrists or arms, late term pregnancy, high blood pressure, glaucoma

 

 

standingsplitStanding Split Pose (Urdhva Prasarita Eka Padasana) View

 

 

DolphinDolphin Pose (Makarasana) View

Begin in Table Pose, on your hands and knees. Set your forearms on the mat, shoulders directly above wrists. Press palms together and forearms into the floor. Exhale, curl toes under and lift knees up. Begin with knees slightly bent with a lift in the heels as you draw the tailbone upward and lengthen the spine. Draw the inner thighs up into the groins and broaden across your shoulder blades. Then, gently begin to straighten your legs. (if this causes your back to round, keep them bent.) Keep head and neck in line with the spine. Hold pose for up to a minute. Release: Exhale and bring knees to mat, back to table pose. Press back into Child’s Pose (Balasana) to rest. 

Benefits: Calming, helps relieve stress and mild depression. Stretches the shoulders, hamstrings, calves, and arches. Strengthens the arms and legs. Aids digestion. Therapeutic for menopause symptoms, menstrual discomfort, high blood pressure, asthma, flat feet, sciatica, headache, insomnia, back pain, and fatigue. Helps prevent osteoporosis. Contraindications: Shoulder or neck injuries.

 

 

Bent standing splitBent Standing Split (Urdhva Prasarita Eka Padasana) View

Stand with feet together. Bend the left knee, reach down and grasp the left foot with your left hand. This is Standing Quad Stretch. Then fold forward letting the right hand come to block or mat. Pull heel to buttock, lifting the knee up, increasing the stretch. Hold pose and breathe for as long as desired, release and repeat on opposite side. 

 

 

 

Pyramid PosePyramid Pose (Parsvottonasana) View

 

Stand in tadasana (mountain pose) at the back of your mat. Step right foot forward (about 3 feet). Hands on hips. Right foot is facing forward. Turn left foot out 45 degrees to the right for stability. Align the right heel with the left heel.
Square hips with the front of the mat. Reach upward and lengthen the spine on an inhale. Exhale, come forward bending at the hip. Bring hands to floor or blocks if needed. Lengthen the spine on each inhale. On each exhale, bend forward a little deeper. Come up and repeat on the left side.

Benefits: Calms the mind, improves posture and balance, stimulates and tones abdominal organs (supporting digestion), stretches and strengthens hamstrings, legs and spine.
Contraindications: back, shouder, or hamstring injury, high blood pressure

 

 

Forward Fold

Standing Forward Fold (Uttanasana) View


Begin standing in tadasana pose, feet hip distance apart. Elongate the spine and fold forward from hips with knees soft. Hold for about 3 to 10 breaths. 

Benefits: releases tension and stretches neck, back and hips, and hamstrings. Massages abominal and reproductive organs. Calms the mind and brings nourishing blood flow to the brain. Slows the heart.
Contraindications: Uncontrolled low blood pressure.

 

wide legged forward bendWide-Legged Forward Bend (Prasarita Padottanasana) View


From tadasana, step feet wide apart. Toes should slightly turn in so outside edges of the feet are parallel. Inhale, lengthen the spine. Exhale, fold forward from the hips. Bring hands down, directly below shoulders and walk hands back, wrists in line with ankles, elbows bent. Bring body weight forward onto balls of the feet.Draw quadriceps upwards. Hold pose up to 10 breaths, lengthening the spine on inhales, deepening the bend on the exhales. To come out, place hands on hips and keep back flat as you rise to standing. If hands don’t reach the floor, place them on blocks. If head easily reaches floor, narrow your stance. Try it with your head supported by a block or bolster. Keep head perpendicular to the floor so that the weight is forward of the very top of your skull.

Benefits: Stretches the hamstrings and opens the hips

 

 

Legs Up the Wall

Legs-up-the-Wall Pose (Viparita Karani) View

Start seated with left side of body in contact with wall, feet on floor in front of you. Lie on back and pivot so backs of your legs press against wall, bottoms of feet are facing up. You may wish to place a rolled up blanket under your neck. Sitting bones pressed against or close to wall, back and head rested on floor (body in 90-degree angle). If desired, you can slide a bolster or folded blanket under the hips by pressing feet into the wall, lifting the hips. Relax head and neck in neutral position, soften face. Rest hands on belly or at your your sides, palms up. Close your eyes and take slow deep breaths through your nose for 5-15 minutes. To come out, push the bottoms of your feet into wall lifting hips slightly. Slide your support out of the way if you used one. Gently roll to one side and stay for a few breaths before rising.

Modification: Stretch inner thighs and groin muscles, let feet fall to sides, legs making a wide “V” shape.
Benefits: Calming, therapeutic for arthritis, headaches, high blood pressure, low blood pressure, insomnia, anxiety and stress. Eases menstrual symptoms. Relieves tired feet and legs, relieves lower back pain. Gently stretches legs and lower back.
Contraindications: (as with any inversion): menstruation, pregnancy, glaucoma, high blood pressure