~Sometimes you need to look down to move yourself right side up~
Inversions are an integral component of not only a good yoga practice, but good health. As kids, we’s hang upside down from the jungle gym like monkeys, do somersaults, or swing as high as possible to get the sweet mojo of flying.
Our young bodies were getting some great internal benefits. Besides being fun and a sense of dare, we were giving our endocrine system a workout. Use your yoga practice to re-ignite the kid’s cells in you. You’ll smile easier.
The body’s glands, or endocrine system, produce approximately 50 hormones. These hormones ignite the release of chemicals that send messages to your body and mind how to feel and function. Some hormones rev you up and others get you to chill out. With yoga poses, you alchemize your chemistry.
Your glands reside from the top in your brain down to your reproductive zone and many places in between. It is not just glands releasing hormones we need to function. Your heart, besides circulating blood in the body 24/7, it’s also provides hormone (atriopeptin) to help regulate your blood pressure.
The pituitary gland, is the size of a pea and generates hormones that trigger other gland’s in the body to do their work. The hypothalamus, also in the brain, is a bridge linking the nervous system to the endocrine system. This almond size piece of the brain maintains your body temperature, circadian rhythm, thirst, hunger, sex drive and more. Perfect examples of power condensed in small units.
Enough of anatomy nuggets.
Yoga inversions. To be specific, an inversion is a pose that gets your head below the level of your heart. What inversions you do stimulate different hormone releases. Forward Fold ignites the parasympathetic nervous system to release hormones like dopamine and serotonin. Chemicals that give a sense of well-being. Just folding over to look at your toes. Child’s pose is another that relaxes the nervous system.
Other inversions rev you up. Headstand or handstand raise your blood pressure, increase the heart rate, strengthen balance, and ignite a release of hormones that increase your energy levels. One of the hormones released in headstand is glucagon, which is produced in the liver. It ignites the production of glucose to get the body’s energy moving faster.
From a cosmetic perspective, inversions use gravity to help diminish the “fine” lines on the face that develop as we age. Gravity and increased oxygenated blood to the face is revitalizing for the cells. It doesn’t stop the process; but, it appears to slow it down for longterm yogis.
Inversions flip your organs upside down (kind of). To invert stirs up sediments so they can be more easily flushed out. Think about it. If you stir sand in water, it will eventually settle to the bottom. The body is no different. Granules of what you consume are broken down in the digestive system. The organs that receive and use what is shared with them can retain tiny remnants over time. Not moving much keeps things where they settle. Throw in an inversion and things get moved more.
We all grow a little older each moment and there is no stopping the clock. But, with a conscious yoga practice, you help maintain the health of the body and mind. Do not worry about setting time expectations of results. Instead, there will be a day when you become aware of a change you did not see happening.
Life really does go full circle. Practice yoga with that precious sense of fun of the kid from earlier times. Only this time, you’ll know how to play with the truth, ‘what goes up, must come down’ at a deeper level.