Inversions, or reverse postures, help us improve the circulation of the body where blood goes backwards to the heart and head. It also help us to stimulate the nervous system and create some heat in the body.
On Day 3 of our 5 Days of Yoga series, we want to work on inversions. Don’t be afraid of the word “inversions” in Yoga – it does not necessarily mean that you'll do handstands. It can be as simple as a downward facing dog! The idea here is to have the level of your heart go above your head to create a reverse flow of blood using gravity. Working on inversions (especially the more advanced poses) also requires a lot of humility, inner strength, and courage to pick ourselves back up again after we fall.
Doing the poses here will take about 15 minutes and is an introduction to the poses for Yoga beginners. Of course, if you want a fuller practice you may extend it by inserting any other yoga poses – perhaps by beginning with some warm-up cat and cows, and ending off with a savasana resting pose.
Start your practice with breathing exercises to align and stabilies your body with your mind.
Before starting on your opening poses, take a deep breath to clear out your lungs. Sit straight on your mat, cross-legged, with shoulders relaxed, and tailbone pointing downwards.
Proceed to breathe in and out, through your nose:
Inhale with 3 counts, hold for 2 counts, and exhale for 5 counts
Throughout the practice, you may want to hold each pose for 5 counts. If you have mastered Ujjayi breathing, you might want to try it. To activate the Ujjayi breath, also known as “ocean breathing” by some, you want to breathe through your nose only, whilst constricting the back of your throat, creating a misty breath that can fog up a mirror. This kind of breathing helps to create some warmth from the insides and relief stress.
This is one of the most basic poses of yoga. However, it is also one of the hardest poses to master! This pose helps to still the mind, and calm the body. Physically, it helps to stretch the hamstrings and the back muscles. Avoid this pose if you have any heart issues, dislocated shoulders, or wrist injuries.
- To begin, position yourself on a tabletop position on all fours, with palms facing downwards, parallel to the shoulders, with fingers fully spread out and feet hip-width distance apart
- Tuck your toes in and slowly lift your bottom upwards
- Fully extend your arms to extend the spine, with your head still remaining downwards
- The trick is not to force yourself to get your feet totally on the mat; it is good to micro-bend your knees to push your chest more downwards to extend the spine deeper
We want the belly to be very close to the thighs as much as possible. Also, try not to put too much weight on the arms as if it’s a plank pose or the wrists!
In your first downward dog stretch, try swinging your hips side to side, dropping your ankles side to side, or perhaps lifting a foot into the air to stretch the other hamstring deeper.
This pose relaxes your spine as you gently let gravity fold you forward, stretching the posterior muscles. It helps with digestion and flushes toxins from the body to your lymphatic nodes. Avoid this pose if you currently have back injuries or hypertension.
- Start by standing on your mat, with your legs wider than hip-width distance apart, facing to the side of your mat
- If you wish, you can place a yoga block directly in front of where you are standing
- Take a nice deep inhale and as you exhale, slowly lower the chest forward and slide your arms down the legs
- Slowly bring your head down to the yoga block or brick.
- To go deeper into the pose, you might want to even walk your hands towards the back of the hip, or hold on to your big toes to pull your body closer to the ground
However, do this only when you are ready – don't overstretch yourself!
- To rise up, gently round your back and bring yourself up to a standing position.
The Candle Pose is also known as a shoulder stand. This pose is usually used during warm down, and helps to improve blood supply to our brain. Avoid this pose if you are experiencing high/low blood pressure, have any spinal injuries, pregnancy, or migraine problems.
- Start by lying on your mat facing upwards, with your feet straight together, and arms next to you with palms lying flat on the mat
Your arms will be helping to support you as you go up here.
- Raise your legs upwards slowly to form a 90-degree angle, before bringing your weight into your shoulders as you bring your bottom nearer to your face
Do this with your legs curled up into an egg shape to stabilize yourself. Bend your arms and use your arms to support your lower back.
- When you’re fully stable, proceed to extend your legs straight overhead
- Only if you are very familiar with the pose and ready, you might want to deepen the stretch of the Candle Pose by extending your feet backward to meet the ground behind you.
- To get out of the pose, simply lower your legs slowly and gently and take a couple of breaths to prevent dizziness.
To end the session, remember to thank yourself for the time taken on the mat, and you may wish to have a resting pose like savasana (lying on your backs for a moment to reconnect with your breath).