3 Inversion Yoga Poses that Benefit the Heart and Mind

By Ashley Ess in Healthy Feeling

The mere thought of being upside down likely conjures images of dizzying roller coasters and childhood tumbling classes. Whether you prefer being right-side up or not, there's plenty of information out there advocating for a little upside-down time. And what better way to incorporate this into your life than by practicing inversion yoga poses?

Inversion Yoga 101

Inversion yoga consists of poses that involve your head being below your heart. Because the safety and effectiveness of this practice depends on the person performing the poses, be sure to consult a medical professional beforehand.

Once you're ready, you can begin reaping the many benefits of inversion yoga. According to Yoga Journal, this form of yoga boosts energy and can improve circulation by movement of the lymphatic system. Additionally, a study published in PLOS One found that practicing yoga can have significant decreases in mild-to-moderate major depression symptoms, and can even improve mood and self-esteem.

If you're feeling ready to dabble with inversion yoga, try these poses that are great for any level and simple enough to do right at home.

Adho Mukha Svanasana (Downward Facing Dog)

Gently move onto your hands and knees, with toes tucked and arms straight. Exhale. Straighten your legs as best you can. Lift your hips as you lengthen your spine.

Your head and torso should face down as you reach your arms ahead of you, with fingers spread out on the floor. Aim to press your heels toward the ground, then raise your shoulders up and roll them back. Your tailbone should point upward.

Breathe. Relax the head and neck. Remain in this pose for up to one minute. Exhale, and come down onto all fours.

Woman doing yoga

Prasarita Padottanasana (Wide-Legged Forward Bend)

Stand tall with feet parallel, three to four feet apart. Engage your thigh muscles, and keep the outer edges of your feet firm on the floor.

Exhale, gently folding forward at the hips while keeping the torso long. Bring your palms (or fingers) to the floor below your shoulders.

Bending your elbows to point behind you, allow your arms to bring your head toward the floor. Engage your legs and feet as you lift your hips upward and pull your head downward. Breathe. When ready to release, gently stretch your arms out to the sides and inhale as you come up.

Woman practices inversion yoga pose on an outdoor terrace

Halasana (Plow)

Lie flat on your back. Inhale while you use your abdominal muscles to lift your feet and legs off the floor. Your feet should be at a 90 degree angle. Use your hands to support your hips as they lift off the floor.

Continue to move your legs over your head, folding at the hips. Ultimately, try to reach your feet behind your head to touch the floor with your toes. Legs and feet should be firmly engaged. Leave space between your chest and chin, and remember to breathe. Your hands can remain on the back of your hips for support, or you can lengthen your arms onto the floor and clasp your hands together to open your shoulders.

When you're ready to release, engage the abdominals. Lift your legs and feet back to 90 degrees. Unfold from your hips back onto the floor, using your hands as support.

Woman doing yoga

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Why It's Good

Inversion yoga—or practicing poses with the head below the heart—creates strength and balance in both body and mind. A wonderful thing about inversion yoga is that it can be done just about anywhere, anytime, giving you an easy way to pause for a moment and relax during your busy day.