“Here’s a little story all about how my life got flipped turned upside down…”
~Will Smith “The Fresh Prince of Bel Air”
Not my story, exactly, but a way to help you write your own story.
ATTACK OF THE INVERSIONS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Saturday April 21st ¨ 2-4 PM ¨ Hudson River Yoga, Poughkeepsie
The physical benefits of inversions are well documented—they help the heart by allowing gravity to assist with the return of venous blood from the bottom 2/3 of our body, they massage the internal organs by forcing the muscles to hold them in place differently than when standing upright, concentration is increased by forcing us to pay attention to what we are doing to maintain balance, etc, etc.
The benefits do not end there.
Interestingly enough, it is only when we are upside down that we can see things as they actually are. Go get a metal spoon. Do it now, I’ll wait.
Hold the spoon at arm’s length and look at the image. Upside down. The back of our eye is the same concave shape. Images we see appear on the “screen” of our optic nerve upside down. Our brains then process and reverse the image. This is why babies look at the world with questioning expressions—their brains are wiring to rectify the difference between the world they see (upside down) and the world they feel (right side up).
In the handful of asanas described in The Hatha Yoga Pradipika, no inversions are given. The only inversion mentioned is not considered an asana, but a mudra, an energetic directional (quick lesson—asanas build energy, mudras direct energy into specific places, usually up the shushumna nadi, and bandhas act like valves to keep the energy from escaping).
The mudra is called viparita karini, “inverted lake.” This in not “leg’s up the wall” as Yoga Journal and most every yoga teacher I have met would have us believe. The position described is more similar to shoulderstand—chin into chest, weight across shoulders, feet in the air.
The purpose for this pose, which extends to other inversion which grew out of this pose, is this: The nectar of life is produced in the “moon”—the medulla oblongata—and over times drips down the throat into the “sun”—the solar plexus—where it is burnt away. When the nectar runs out, well, like Dorothy and the hourglass in the Wicked Witch of the West’s tower, your time is up. Inverting (and bending the neck) prevents the nectar from being consumed, thereby increasing life.
Staying with the Pradipika, we also find that the overall purpose of Hatha Yoga is to obtain Raja Yoga. Hatha Yoga achieves this by concentrating energy within the body, clearing the pathways for this energy to move in the body, then sending that energy from the base center to the highest center. Then we can meditate and achieve Samadhi. This movement of energy takes the normal upward flowing energy (prana vayu) and combines it with the normal downward flowing energy (apana vayu) in samana vayu (moving in the center, think solar plexus/digestive organs). That energy is then sent up the shushumna nadi (central energy channel) from the lowest point (base of the spine) to highest (crown of the head). Easy to see where reversing our orientation is space facilitates this process.
A very long way of saying that we will be doing more than showing off how strong we are and how well we can balance.
Actually we will do neither of those things. I don’t particularly care if you hit any of the final expressions of the poses. The great thing about inversions is that you can reap all of the benefits of the poses while you learn them in stages.
We will warm up. We will learn how to fall. We will build. We will learn how we approach difficult things. We will find places for you to work.
We will do this in the center of the room.
All of them: shoulderstand, headstand, handstand, and forearm balance, their prep and derivations will be done in the middle of the room. Using the wall is like having someone else chew your food or write your resume. You need to be the one doing the practice, not the wall, and the earlier you begin learning to invert under your own power, the quicker you will get there.
Again, this is not a contest to see who can go the furthest.
It is an opportunity to safely explore, think about, and grow your practice, and to gain benefits beyond the physical.
And it’s good fun!
I may even tell you the story—not “How I became the Fresh Prince of Bel Air,” but of the importance inversions played in establishing and solidifying my practice.