Inversions like head stand and shoulder stand can appear intimidating. Humans are much more used to standing firmly on their two feet, as opposed to balancing on their heads and shoulders. The word “inversion,” which refers to anytime the head is below the heart, provokes emotions that range from fear to excitement to doubt.
However, inversions also have some of the greatest benefits including improving circulation, supporting detoxification, stimulating the endocrine and nervous systems, building core strength, and boosting energy. Head stand and shoulder stand are two commonly practiced inversions that boast huge benefits.
Benefits of Shoulder Stand (Sarvangasana)
Shoulder stand brings full body benefits, like increased circulation, improved digestion, and so much more.
Shoulder stand reverses blood flow in the body so that when someone stands back up, a fresh wave of blood shoots through their body. This rush stimulates circulation, bringing more oxygen into the entire body.
Being upside down readjusts your internal organs like your intestines and colon. That, in turn, can stimulate bowel movements and clears up your digestive system.
Enhances The Lymphatic System
The lymphatic system includes a complex network of vessels, ducts, lymph nodes, the spleen, the thymus, the adenoids, and the tonsils. The main function of the lymphatic system is to cleanse toxins and protect against harmful invaders in the body. This means it carries waste from the tissues and into the bloodstream for removal. The system helps the body fight off infections, inflammation, and metabolic diseases. By getting into shoulder stand, the lymph can move towards other organs. This can speed up waste removal and give the lymphatic system some good movement.
In order for the lymph to move, it has to be stimulated. Moving, walking, and exercising are all great ways to do this. They help “pump” the lymph and get the waste moving freely. Inversions like shoulder stand can help stimulate the flow of lymph in a different way than we might be used to.
Relieves Stress and Anxiety
Being in a shoulder stand calms the parasympathetic nervous system because the heels are above the heart. This allows the body and mind to feel relaxed. One study even found that students who practiced two hours of yoga, including inversions like shoulder stand, a week for five weeks showed a significant decrease in depression and anxiety symptoms.
When the heart is above the head, more blood and oxygen flow to the brain. This brings feelings of energy and alertness. Research also shows that daily yoga can reduce insomnia and help with a better night’s sleep.
Builds Strength and Flexibility
Shoulder stand is no easy pose. Lifting into, and holding, the pose requires both core and upper body strength. Along with many other yoga poses, it can also aid in flexibility, specifically in the neck and shoulders. It can also strengthen your legs and back muscles as your entire body is engaged during the posture. It’s truly a full body exercise.
Shoulder Stand Modifications For Beginners
Want to practice shoulder stand? Try supported bridge pose with the legs lifted.
Shoulder stand is a commonly taught inversion for beginners, but it actually requires a fair amount of core, shoulder, and leg strength to practice correctly. Until ready to practice the full pose, try a bridge pose/shoulder stand modification. For full, step-by-step instructions, click here.
There are a lot of benefits to incorporating shoulder stand into a regular yoga practice, regardless of fitness level. Try starting with the modification above to gain confidence and strength. Remember: The more it’s practiced, the easier it will become.
Benefits of Headstand (Shirshasana)
Headstand is often referred to as the king of all yoga poses. Here are nine reasons why you should do one every day, using both scientific and anecdotal evidence.
Improve Blood Circulation
Inversions like headstand can reverse blood flow, allowing fresh blood to rush through the body. Think about how often blood flow is only going in one direction due to sitting and standing. Studies have shown that this rush can enhance circulation and bring more oxygen into the body.
Thyroid and Hormone Benefits
Headstands stimulate and provide refreshed blood to various endocrine glands, which help improve the body’s overall functionality. Endocrine glands release hormones into the bloodstream. The endocrine hormones help control mood, growth and development, the way organs work, metabolism, and reproduction. The endocrine system regulates how much of each hormone is released.
Although not in the head, inversions are also thought to contribute to adrenal gland health by promoting a more rapid flushing of toxins. The adrenal glands produce hormones that you can’t live without, including sex hormones and cortisol.
With healthier adrenal glands comes more positive thought. The adrenals are responsible for releasing hormones in response to stress. Overworked adrenals, in the case of adrenal fatigue, can lead to irritability, anxiety, inability to concentrate, insomnia, nervousness, and even depression. In addition, headstands increase blood flow to the brain, stimulating the nervous system which increases mental sharpness and clearer thinking.
Headstands help to cleanse the organs by removing the pull that gravity has on them. It increases digestive fire and produces heat in the body. This helps support detoxification of the liver, kidneys, stomach, and intestines.
Strengthens Core Muscles
To hold a straight headstand for an extended period of time, the practitioner must engage the obliques, the rectus abdominis and the transverse abdominis.
Reduces Back Pain
A headstand is a type of inversion method, which studies have shown can help reduce back pain.
Gains a Different Perspective
When inverted, the practitioner quite literally shifts their perspective to view the world in another way, which is always helpful. Many people are also afraid of being upside down. Headstand provides a great opportunity to face this fear head on, pun intended. It allows the practitioner to step into the unknown and challenge fear.
Head Stand Modifications For Beginners
After shoulder stand, head stand is the next most commonly practiced inversion for beginners. However, if done incorrectly, headstand can put pressure on and even injure the neck. To build strength as well as stability in the shoulders, practice a headstand prep modification, and never kick up into head stand. For more info on building strength for head stand and tips for modifying, click here.
Soon you will be pressing up into the headstand using core strength instead of relying on momentum, and once you’re up, your shoulders will be strong enough to take pressure off of your neck.