Uttanasana, or intense forward-bending pose, is a component of Sun Salutes and vinyasa, as well as, a dynamic part of the transition between standing and Chaturanga Dandasana. In Sanskrit, Ut means Intense, Tana means stretched and Asana means a yogic pose.
Uttasana is often dismissed as an uninteresting and basic pose; yet it offers a wealth of opportunities to develop muscle actions that support other standing poses like Warriors and Pyramid Pose. Practicing this foundation pose brings numerous benefits. Uttasana is also an inversion. Albeit a much more accessible inversion than head stand or handstand but with many of the usual benefits and more. Personally, I lovepracticing Uttansana because the weight of the head hanging heavy is enough to give my neck a gentle stretch. The stretch decompresses the spinal joints allowing a little stretch of the muscles and ligaments as well as a burst of nourishment.
Beginner’s Tip: If you cannot touch the ground, hold onto the backs of the legs wherever the hands fall (except for the knees) or cross the arms in front of the body holding onto the elbows. Let the head hang with gravity. If this is still too intense, take tension off the hamstrings and low back by bending the knees. Working with the breath, try “inhaling, bending”, “exhaling, straightening”. Deepen the Uttanasana pose to increase the stretch on the backs of the legs, stand in the forward bend with the balls of your feet elevated an inch or more off the floor on a sand bag or thick book or lean slightly forward and lift up onto the balls of your feet, pulling your heels a half-inch or so away from the floor. Draw your inner groins deep into the pelvis, and then, from the height of the groins, lengthen your heels back onto the floor.
Caution: Uttanasana requires patience and practice. It can take a while to reach the deepest variation of the pose. Those with back injuries can practice this pose with bent knees, use a block for support under the hands, or substitute Half Forward Bend instead.
In yoga, the word inversion is used to describe any asana (pose) where the head is below the heart. Most of us think of headstand, handstand or one of these more advanced asanas when we hear “inversions,” but there are many approachable inversions that can be practiced even for a beginner.
There are numerous benefits to inversions: bringing the head below the heart reverses blood flow and improves circulation, builds core strength and confidence, promotes diaphragmatic breathing, stimulates the lymphatic system, and soothes the nervous system. Seniors especially can benefit from inversion poses, but everyone can enjoy improved circulation, reduced foot and leg swelling and of course, rush of oxygen to the brain by including regular inversions in their yoga practice.
While you can practice inverted yoga poses at any time during the day, practicing them early in the morning will help keep you energized and refreshed throughout the day. All inverted yoga poses for beginners can act as elixirs of life, provided they are practiced regularly (and safely). Remember, yoga is a lifelong journey. You don’t need to practice any fancy arm balances to reap the benefits of inversions. Starting with these beginner-friendly inversions is a great way to turn your world upside down. 😊
Caution: Before attempting any inversions, be sure to check with your doctor, particularly if you have elevated blood pressure. Ladies will also want to refrain from inversions during their menstrual cycles.
Adho Mukha Svanasana is most often performed as a part of Surya Namaskaras (Sun Salutations). Downward-facing dog comes from the Sanskrit word Adho Mukha Svanasana (Adho meaning downward, Mukha meaning face, Svana meaning dog, and asana meaning pose or posture). This pose is like the position a dog takes while stretching after having a nap.
Since the head is brought lower than the pelvis this pose is generally classified as an inversion pose. Downward dog is considered one of the most easily accessible inversions. This simple yet dynamic yoga pose is often used as an opener for more complicated and demanding yoga asanas. Downward-facing dog can be practiced independently as it has an entire set of physical, mental and emotional benefits that can be obtained by practicing this asana regularly.
This inverted pose is performed lengthwise with the hands and feet pushing against the floor. The hips are raised in the air. The body eventually forms a pyramid triangular- shape. Yoga beginners can use yoga props such as placing the hands on yoga blocks or keeping the knees bent (as seen in the picture above) to help maintain proper alignment in the pose. Even if your feet do not touch the ground, they eventually will with continued practice. The goal is not necessarily for the feet to touch, but to keep the back in the “slope” position.
Avoid this pose if you suffer from carpal tunnel syndrome or diarrhea.
Avoid practicing this pose during the latter stages of pregnancy.
It is unadvisable to practice this pose during menstruation.
If you have a headache or suffer from high blood pressure, you should support your head with a block or bolster.
Avoid this pose if you suffer from a chronic or recent injury to the shoulders, arms, hips and back.
*Always consult your doctor prior to beginning any exercise regimen including yoga. If you have any questions or about this pose, consult a yoga practitioner to ensure that you learn the posture correctly to avoid injuries.
With over 84,000 poses in yoga to choose from for practice, yoga enthusiasts and practitioners might be left confused on just which ones are the most important. With our daily demands and commitments, most of us might not have the time to perform so many poses, for that reason it’s a good idea to focus on the one that is considered most beneficial for daily practice and that is Savangasana (Shoulderstand). It is one of my favorite inverted poses.
Inverted yoga poses reverse the action of gravity on the body. Instead of everything being pulled towards the feet, the orientation shifts towards the head. On emotional a level Shoulderstand turns everything upside down throwing a new light on old habit patterns of behavior. Shoulderstand improves health, reduces stress and anxiety, increases mental power and also increases self-confidence. In addition, the abdominal organs; liver, spleen, stomach, kidneys and pancreas receive a powerful massage helping them work better.
In Sanskrit, Sarvanga means all parts so as the name suggests, it affects all the bodily organs. It stimulates the thyroid gland, balancing the circulatory, digestive, nervous, reproductive and endocrine systems. It is indeed a panacea, a cure all. Obesity and corpulence are alleviated by this pose as well as constipation and enlargement of the liver and the spleen.
It is best practiced with its counter poses in specific durations for maximal efficiency and when planned correctly, the whole sequence takes less than 6 minutes to practice, depending on your schedule. Personally, I practice this pose daily as part of the Ashtanga primary series placing the most emphasis on this pose for all the benefits stated above.
So next time when you are unsure of which pose you should include in your yoga practice when you are short on time, make it a point to go for the Shoulder-Stand. Your body will thank you for it.
Modifications & Variations
Shoulderstand can bring many benefits to your mind, body, and spirit when practiced regularly and with correct alignment. Be sure to make whatever changes you need to reduce discomfort when practicing it. Here are a few suggestions:
For extra shoulder support, place a folded, firm blanket beneath your shoulders before coming into the pose. Your head and neck should be off the blanket. This extra support can also help prevent neck injury.
Only lift both legs at the same time if your abdominal muscles are strong enough. Do not struggle to lift both legs together. If it is too difficult, lift one leg at a time.
Practice Legs Up the Wall (Viparita Karani) as a modification for those with neck injuries and for women who are menstruating. *See above picture*
As with all inversions, it’s crucial to ensure you are performing the pose with correct alignment; otherwise, it’s very easy to injure your neck. Be sure to take it slowly and make whatever adjustments you need to reduce discomfort.
An inversion is any asana in which the head is below the heart; and while Headstand, Handstand, Forearm Stand and Shoulder Stand may come to mind, there are gentler variations that may be more accessible for beginners: Downward Dog, Standing Forward Folds, Legs Up the Wall and Happy Baby are great asanas to start with prior to trying some of the aforementioned poses. The popularity of yoga аll оvеr thе world іѕ due tо thе numerous health benefits associated wіth іt.
Yoga helps іn improving both thе physical and mental strength, as well as enhancing flexibility; thus maintaining оvеrаll health. Secondly, yoga іѕ one оf thе best аnd thе most effective stress reducing techniques. Along wіth meditation, yoga іѕ аlѕо used tо improve concentration. In the case оf yoga inversion, thе head іѕ аt thе base, аnd half thе lower body оr thе entire lower body іѕ аbоvе thе head. Thіѕ way, thе heart іѕ аbоvе thе head. Yoga inversions can sometimes seem to be difficult tо perform whеn compared tо other yoga postures.
Health Benefits оf Inversions іn Yoga
Wіth yoga inversions оr inverted yoga, thе principle of gravity and body's relationship tо іt іѕ changed. Thіѕ helps іn treatment оf several diseases аnd disorders. Thе following аrе ѕоmе оf thе uses оr health benefits оf inverted yoga.
Inversions іn yoga helps іn improving blood circulation. Whеn thе body іѕ upside down, thе heart pumps blood vigorously whісh leads tо increase оf oxygen supply tо thе brain. Thеrеfore, thеrе іѕ а proper blood circulation tо all parts оf thе body. Thіѕ helps іn treatment аnd prevention оf diseases caused due tо poor blood circulation like varicose veins, еtс. Along wіth blood circulation, thе flow оf internal fluids іѕ stimulated due tо thе upside down position. Thіѕ helps іn cleansing аnd detoxifying thе body. Yoga inversions help іn clearing lactic acid built uр іn thе body. Due tо thе inverted position, thе lactic acid gets flushed оut, whісh helps іn treating muscles cramps аnd pain.
Aѕ mentioned аbоvе, inverted yoga may be difficult tо perform. Hоwеvеr, just like strength training, inverted poses help іn toning muscles оf arms, legs and abdomen. Inversion yoga benefits аlѕо include treatment аnd prevention оf bасk pain. Pinched nerves аnd compressed discs аrе ѕоmе оf thе most common causes оf bасk pain іn people. Thеѕе discs саn bе separated by the practice of inverted yoga poses. Thеrе іѕ also аn increased flow оf blood іn thе brain due tо inverted positions. Thіѕ brings аbоut а calming effect аnd саn help іn reducing stress.
Althоugh thеrе аrе а large number оf benefits to inverted yoga, іt іѕ recommended thаt уоu consult your doctor bеfоrе trying them. Thеѕе postures аrе difficult аnd ѕhоuld bе avoided bу people having high blood pressure оr оthеr chronic disorder, аnd bу women during thеіr monthly periods. Hоwеvеr, іf followed properly аnd under thе guidance оf a doctor and an experienced yoga teacher, inverted yoga can rеаllу prove tо bе very beneficial. Take care! 😊
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