RESTORATIVE-YIN YOGA involves supported body/mind relaxation. This is gentle, gentle yoga that promotes deep relaxation for stress reduction while also stretching and rehabilitating connective tissue.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Yoga Inversions

Copyright Lance Kinseth, How Do You Save Yourself II, 30x32,” 2006

IN YOGA, a new door opens that is different in mind-body practices: The upside-down world.  In restorative yoga, legs up wall, happy baby, and supported bridge are examples of “upside-down” poses.  In yoga in general, the downward turns of the upper body in downward dog and forward fold, and the complete flip-flops of headstands and shoulder stands offer upside-down elements.   In some yogic practices, the headstand—Salamba Sirsasana—is referenced as the “king” of all asanas.  In yogic circles [not scientifically reliable and valid], such calm inversions have been described as being equivalent to highly aerobic exercises. [This “aerobic” quality may come from the impact of inversions on blood circulation.]

Restorative inversions—“legs up wall,” “supported happy baby,” “supported bridge”—are often favored poses of participants.  They are described as tremendous counters to walking when traveling or standing on one’s feet for much of the day, or as preparation for sleep.  To make inversions even more accessible, a core restorative pose, “Legs Up Wall” [ Viparita Karani], can be modified to legs bent at ninety degrees on a chair or couch or bed.

Inversions enlist gravity’s power in our 80% water body: [The following data is from various sources.]

·      Easing the heart by easing venous return,
·      Draining the lymphatic system: groin and chest, rebalancing body fluids,
·      Suffusing blood into the upper lobes of the lungs where oxygen is in greatest concentration,
·      Stimulating hormonal process by compression/suffusion of blood: thyroid, pineal/pituitary, and limbic, affecting the regulation of metabolism, in a still unspecified manner,
·      Strengthening the core, as well as attesting to increased core strength in more difficult inversions,
·      Increased comprehensive body awareness
·      Producing a calming effect that can [physiology alone: a) increased flowof blood to the brain, b)stimulate endocrine system with particular attention to the pituitary “master” gland, c) lowering blood pressure—by “tricking the body” to presume that BP has risen due to inversion so that the body relaxes blood vessels and hormones that encourage retaining salt and water];
Then, more speculative,
·      Perhaps improving mental alertness and stamina, by exercising the baroreceptors that regulate blood pressure in the brain [Perhaps increased blood flow to brain and perhaps better blood transport to areas of the brain that are active from barorecptors shunting blood to less active areas], 
·      Perhaps stimulating the production of CSF [cerebrospinal fluid] in ventricles of the brain that then flows from the brain into the spinal column [The flexing of the neck may increase the elasticity of neck vertebrate, aiding in flow.],
·      Perhaps reducing “hot flashes,” providing physio-therapy for back issues when gentler inversions separate discs in between vertebrate, improving digestion and sleep and reducing anxiety [especially through physiological changes that reduce body stress],
·      Perhaps [from Asian health perspective], a) drawing “the nectar of the lonely sun” (in the naval area) toward the head [which may intuitively describe altered perceptions resulting from the modification of pineal and pituitary hormonal release—either restricting or increasing hormonal release, and similarly b) drawing “prana” inward toward the organs, and offering humility by lowering the head below the heart that, in turn, deepens a sense of compassion in the service of love,
·      Perhaps, as noted briefly above, offering an “aerobic” effect [aerobics may do some of what inversion does for the vascular system], and
·      Perhaps does something more elusive and individually interpreted—changing perspective and some different insights.

Inversion likely requires some time in poses to allow for the various effects to occur.  This may be as little as 5-10 minutes for basic efficacy.  Restorative inversions can be held much longer.

Contraindications of inversions:
·      Neck and spine injuries, pre-existing and potential [special emphasis needed to be stressed to perhaps reducing the time spent in head and shoulder stands due to possible cumulative effect of pressure.  Restorative poses such as Supported legs Up Wall and Supported Bridge as well as alternatives to inversion poses such as Inversion tables and traction machines reduce or eliminate neck stress.
·      Glaucoma, and existing inner ear problems [infrequently may cause inner ear problems]
·      Heavy menstruation
·      Pregnancy
·      High BP—coming out of inversion may increase BP briefly yet suddenly as blood flows downward.

“Inside” and “outside” and “upside-down;” If things circle or spiral, there is, ultimately, no “upside-down.”  There are only different points in time when phenomena are brought into awareness.  A specific point in time may look at a different aspect.   If blind and sensing an elephant—touching the nose or the body, or the ears, or the trunk, or the feet reveals quite different, yet real, interpretations, but misses the essence.

YES, Yes, yes, we spend the bulk of our lives “right-side up.”  Standing up on our two legs, and evolving to become “bi-pedal,” likely gave us our contemporary lives as-they-are.  But when we invert and simultaneously feel good, Legs-Up-Wall is trying to tell us something.  Perhaps this upside-down experience is going back way-way back, deeper than we intended—millenniums back in time when our pre-human ancestors, not yet come-out-of-the-sea, dove deep into the ocean, spiraling, or, more closely but still vastly distant, when we hung from trees living in a landscape of “up and down” more than in a horizontal plane with a floor.   

In inversions, especially in restorative inversions, we do tremendous good to ourselves.  We simply feel it in a very relaxed manner in Legs-Up Wall or Supported Bridge or, just a little more intense in supported “Happy Baby.”  Our sensations may go so deep that it is far deeper than childhood, touching something so profound and eternal and healthful that we are drawn here again and again like a moth to a flame.

Invert into Legs-Up Wall, adding a blanket around feet or body, and perhaps a ten-pound sandbag on feet] and more blankets across chest [sort of like a “pressure blanket” utilized with autistic children, because of the positive effect of the pressure in reducing stimuli judged to be overwhelming], and a practitioner can go more deeply inside one’s own body sensations.  With more time given over to this pose, it becomes possible to evoke deeper feelings and memories that ultimately define one’s life direction—what it is for which one is living.  Out of all of the myriad memories that might be recalled, key events that are a part of one’s ongoing life script express directives.  

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