As we approach cold and flu season, including inversions in your self-care practice is an excellent way to boost immunity.
Inversions are yoga poses that bring your head below your heart. And don’t be scared, even though handstands and headstands are considered inversions, there are plenty of other options that keep your feet on the ground.
Inversions are great for immunity because they help circulate lymph through the body. Lymph is a liquid that gathers germs and delivers them to your lymph nodes to be filtered out of the body. Lymph isn’t circulated through the body with our blood, so the only way it can move through the body is through muscular contraction (movement) or gravity.
Since most of our germs enter into the body through our respiratory system, it is great to get the lymph moving through the areas of the nose, mouth, lungs, etc. Because inversions bring the head below the heart, gravity will pull the lymph past these areas to gather germs. Then, when you exit the inversion to a seated or standing position, the lymph is able to rid these toxins through the lymph nodes. Victory!
The key is to practice these poses consistently. If you wait until you don’t feel well, you kinda missed the boat. These inversions won’t feel comfortable if you have pressure in your nose and head. Catch the germs before they start to bring you down!
Here are some examples of inversions. Hold some or all of these poses for 2-5 minutes. As you hold each pose, take deep breaths, bringing air down to the bottom of the belly. Be sure to listen to the body. If something doesn’t feel right, slowly exit the pose and try another.
If you are taking care of any special conditions (examples can be found here), it is always best to check in with your doctor.
Standing Forward Fold
Stand with feet hip width apart. Hinge from the hips and let the crown of the head reach towards the earth. Keep a little bend in the knees (experiment with how much bend feels best for you). You can let the upper body “hang” or you can try resting arms and head on a chair. If your body allows, you could also rest your head on a stack of books or a yoga block and place your hands on the ground.
Wide Leg Standing Forward Fold
This pose is much like Standing Forward Fold, except you will bring your legs wide and let your feet be slightly pigeon-toed. Experiment with how wide your legs are to determine what feels best. Again, you can always use props for the upper body to increase relaxation.
Begin in a kneeling plank (Shoulders over wrists. Hips in front of knees.). From here, lift your hips towards the sky, making an upside down “V” with the body. Feet are hip distance apart and heals are reaching towards or touching the earth. Hands stay shoulder distance apart. Heart reaches towards feet. Experiment with bending the knees. With bent knees, some people can find more length in the spine which feels amazing. Resting your head comfortably on a yoga block, stack of books or blankets is a great option!
Supported Bridge Pose
Lay on your back with knees bent. Feet and knees are hip distance apart. Arms are along side your body with palms facing up. Press the backs of your shoulders and feet into the ground and engage the muscles of your backside to lift your hips up. Take a stack of blankets, pillows, or a yoga block and place them under your sacrum. Choose a height that is comfortable for you and experiment until you feel fully supported.