When you hear a yoga instructor tell the class to move into an inversion such as a crow pose or headstands, it can be quite intimidating. However, doing inversions in yoga is not just for advanced yogis but can also be done by beginners.
The best yoga inversions for beginners include the forward fold, downward-facing dog, dolphin pose, and hare pose. Each of these inversions is simple to do and helps prepare you for more advanced inversion. As you are better able to balance yourself upside down, you can do more advanced inversions.
Yoga inversions are great additions to a yoga practice that can be equally beneficial and lots of fun. If you want to learn more about yoga inversions and learn how to do different beginner yoga inversions, continue reading.
What Are Yoga Inversions?
A yoga inversion is any pose that incorporates going upside down and putting your head closer to the ground than the rest of your body. These poses will increase blood flow and oxygen to the brain increasing your metabolism. You increase energy levels, strengthen your core and improve your circulation.
While many people may be frightened to try them, they can be as simple as a downward-facing dog, but they can also be very advanced. Nonetheless, they are worth learning as not only are they fun, but they can also make you that much more confident when you are in a yoga class. Some other types of inversions include:
Sometimes, your body needs to try something new. Flipping upside down can be a great way to do just that, helping your muscles work in new ways and improving your overall yoga practice. If needed, you can always ask someone, including your yoga instructor, to help you with these poses. There is nothing wrong with taking some time to practice.
The Importance of Learning Inversions
As we mentioned, there are plenty of benefits that can come from practising inversions, giving you all the more reason to try them out for yourself. While you can opt to leave them out, it would be like leaving the lemons out of lemonade; it makes yoga unique.
Having them in your practice is one way that yoga can differ from other physical exercise types. It also brings plenty of amazing physical and psychological benefits along with it. Below, we have outlined all the benefits that can come with adding some inversions into your yoga practice.
After a while, your muscles will get used to specific movements and, with time, will stop building as much strength. It makes it essential that you switch things up so you can continue to build strength. Doing inversions is a great way to do that.
Moves such as shoulder stands and handstands are great ways to continue strengthening your arms, legs, back, and core muscles. At the same time, this also helps to build balance as you are encouraged to hold everything tight at your core.
Another benefit is that turning yourself upside down can help improve your circulation. By going against gravity, you will be giving some of the systems in your body a helping hand. You improve the blood flow back to the heart and helping your oxygenated blood get back to your brain. This can then help improve your concentration and memory abilities.
Helps Your Lymph Flow
Your lymphatic system is where all the toxins, bacteria, and excess proteins are removed from the body. Just as moving upside down can help with blood flow and circulation, it can also give a helping hand to your lymph flow. It flushes out all the bad stuff out of your system.
Just as lifting your feet to help with swelling, turning upside down into inversions can help the same way.
Stimulates the Nervous System
As you move into inversions, you will also be stimulating your nervous system, which creates heat for the body. Some other inversions where you lift your legs instead have a cooling effect on the nervous system, helping you relax or de-stress.
Gives You Energy
Moving your body into different positions improves your circulation and stimulates your nervous system. Inversions can also give you energy. As it encourages you to look at a different perspective, quite literally, you can feel more energised and ready for your day.
Have you ever been to a yoga class and wanted to run the second the instructor said to move into crow pose? Well, then practising inversions is a great way to feel like the strongest yogi in the room as you push yourself to try out these poses.
Once you have mastered one, you will feel even more confident at trying out other ones, whether it is in a yoga class or not.
9 Great Yoga Inversions for Beginners
Remember, the most important thing is that inversions take time and practice. Take all the necessary steps and precautions to ensure that you don't hurt yourself when you practice these moves. You should also be cautious if you have any health issues. If you are concerned, contact your health care practitioner to see if it's okay for you to try out some inversions.
If you want to begin trying out some different yoga inversions, there are plenty that beginners can do. Below, we have outlined the best yoga inversions for beginners. We also include any tips or tricks you can use to improve your ability to do them or make it easier.
Forward Fold Pose
The most simple inversion you probably already do is the forward fold. Placing your head lower than your heart is an inversion and is a great place to start as a beginner.
At first, you may not be able to fold all the way to have your hands touch the ground. But with time and practice, this will come naturally and improve your alignment in other inversions. To do this inversion:
- Either start this pose in a downward-facing dog or standing straight with your feet shoulder-width apart.
- Either bend down to meet your hands to your feet or walk your feet up from a downward-facing dog to meet your hands at the top of the mat.
- Lean your torso over as you fold as far down as you can, keeping your back lengthened. Avoid rounding your back, and instead, bend your knees as needed.
- Tuck your chin in, relax your shoulder, and let your hands rest on your thighs, shins, feet, or the ground. You can even tuck your hands under your feet if you can.
- Hold this pose for 3-5 breaths.
As simple as it may seem, the downward-facing dog is an inversion as your head remains below your heart. So it is one of the best for beginners to start out doing. The key here is to keep your back and arms in line with each other and bend your knees as needed to avoid rounding your back. To do this inversion:
- Start on the ground in a tabletop position. With your hands and knees on the ground, make sure that your hands are under your shoulders and your knees are under your hips.
- Push your toes into the ground and keep your fingers wide as you raise your tailbone in an upward motion. You may need to bring your feet back slightly as you lift into the pose. Essentially, you are forming a triangle with your body.
- Allow your head to rest between your arms and gaze at your feet or your knees.
- Hold this pose for 3-5 breaths.
If you find yourself struggling with this pose, it may be that you are pushing your torso too close to your hands. To adjust, make sure that you keep your weight towards the back of your legs. Also, make sure you are lifting your hips. In this pose, you can also pedal your legs for a deeper stretch to help you sink deeper into this pose.
A pose similar to the downward-facing dog is the dolphin pose. The only difference is that you are on your forearms instead of your hands. This small change, though, does not make it any more difficult, and it is still a great beginner inversion to try out.
Practising this pose, along with the downward-facing dog, is a great way to get your body ready for other inversions that require upper body and core strength. In fact, many yoga instructors may have you use this pose as practice for headstands as it uses the foundation that you would in a headstand. To do this inversion:
- Begin this pose in a tabletop position on your hands and knees. Then, lower yourself down onto your forearms with your elbows slightly ahead of your shoulders.
- Push your toes into the ground and lift your tailbone into the air as you push into your thumbs and palms. Essentially, you are forming a triangle with your body.
- Bend your knees if you need to, and remember to keep your hips open and lifted.
- Hold this pose for 3-5 breaths.
This is a super fun inversion for beginners and is a great way to get you upside down with your hands in the air right away. As you do this pose, you will be encouraged to develop the core strength needed to do handstands.
For this pose, you will want to bring your mat up to a wall, and there should be no pictures or furniture around that you can fall on or kick. If you feel more comfortable, get someone to stand near you to make sure you don't fall. However, you will never be taking your feet off the wall, so this isn't too big of a worry. To do this inversion:
- Begin on the ground with your butt facing the wall on your hands and knees, with your feet tucked against the back of the wall. Keep your hands exactly where they are lined up below your shoulders.
- Bring your tailbone up into a downward-facing dog and begin walking one leg up the wall. Stop when it reaches hip level. If your hip seems to be going past your head, go back into a tabletop position and move forward slightly.
- Then, you can lift your other leg to meet the other leg. Keep them as straight as possible as you push into the area under your thumb, keeping your fingers spread wide.
- Remember to activate your core, and breathe as you hold this pose for 30 seconds to a minute.
Once you get the hang of this pose, you will be able to move on to doing an actual handstand. However, if you still struggle to hold yourself up, keep practising this pose until you build arm strength and improve your balance.
This headstand prep is a great way to get you feeling comfortable with putting your head on the floor. It encourages you to find the strength within your upper body to hold your hips above your head.
For this inversion, the goal is to feel what it would be like to move into a headstand. However, you want to make sure you master these movements before doing a headstand. Otherwise, you can hurt your neck if you do it improperly. To do this inversion:
- Begin in a dolphin pose and interlace your fingers so that your palms still have some space in between them.
- Then, lower your head down, so it is situated between your wrists, but don't let it push into your palms. Here, you want to push into your forearms and the outsides of your wrists, as you keep a good amount of space between your shoulders and your ears.
- Begin to slowly walk your feet as close as you can to your hands, keeping everything else as is.
- Hold this pose for 3-5 breaths.
This pose is quite simple and can also be a great alternative to making the supported shoulder stand mentioned above as you get to use a wall for support. This does not mean the benefits aren't any better. This inversion can be great for feeling a great stretch, easing back pain, and all the other great stuff inversions can do. To do this pose:
- Lay flat on your back to begin.
- Then, lift your legs as you slowly move your way up to the wall. Stop when your butt is almost touching the wall.
- Keep your legs up the wall and as straight as possible. If needed, you can slightly bend your knees.
- Hold this inversion for 30 - 60 seconds.
Supported Shoulder Stand
This pose is typically done to help you slow down at the end of a yoga class. However, it still is an inversion and requires you to use arm, leg, and core strength to hold yourself in place.
This pose can help you get yourself ready for a shoulder stand, but it can be quite difficult as it is, so you want to make sure that you do it properly. To do this inversion:
- Begin laying down on your mat. If needed, grab a blanket and place it at the back of the mat. Lay your upper back and shoulders on it, with your head on the floor.
- Using your abdominal muscles, lift your legs over your head, and if you want, you can stay in this position.
- To continue, bring your hands together under your butt as you bring your shoulders closer together.
- When you feel stable, lift your legs fully over your head as you balance on your shoulders and point your feet to the sky. Place your hands under your tailbone for extra support.
- Hold this for 30 seconds or until you feel your body starts to curve unintentionally.
This pose is a great way to help get your back used to being in inverted poses as you may need some mobility in your spine. By doing the hare pose, you can get yourself comfortable in these kinds of poses. To do this pose:
- Begin sitting on your knees and your feet.
- Bend all the way forward, almost as if you were entering a child's pose but keep your hands to your sides.
- Lift your tailbone into the air as you curve your spine slightly. Tuck your head, so the crown of your head is touching the mat, and your chin is tucked into your neck.
- Grab each foot with your hands.
- Hold this pose for 30 seconds. As you come out of the pose, move slowly and gently.
Supported Headstand Pose
While this pose may look difficult, and we will admit it may be the scariest to try out as a beginner, it, in fact, is great for beginners. Most of all, it allows you almost fully to be in a headstand but with a wall's assistance.
Once you can hold this pose and feel comfortable on your head, you can begin to practice doing an unsupported headstand. For the first few times, you try it, have someone stand near you and spot you to make sure you don't fall backward. To do this inversion:
- Place a sticky mat or folded blanket where your head and forearms are going to go. Make sure it is fairly close to the wall where you will then kick your feet up onto.
- Kneel on the floor facing it or begin in a dolphin pose.
- Move down onto your forearms, and interlace your fingers, with your elbows sticking out. Keep your palms away from each other..
- Push your forearms into the floor slightly as you place your head up against your hands.
- Walk your feet closer to your hands and begin to lift your legs one at a time to rise to form a V shape.
- Keep your torso long, lift your shoulders, and keep your core strong. You want to avoid putting all the pressure on your shoulders as you don't want to fall onto your neck.
- Begin to lift your feet up and away from the floor to meet the wall behind you. Keep your pelvis tucked in.
- Continue pushing into the outside of your wrists and keeping your body steady and straight. Do not let your shoulders begin to slouch.
- Hold for 10 seconds to start, and longer as you get more practice.
- To come out of this pose, lower both feet to the floor at the same time.
Risks of Inversions
While some inversions such as forward folds and downward-facing dog pose virtually no risk whatsoever. The more advanced inversions, even the supported headstand, can pose some risks.
Here are some of the risks that you should consider before you do inversions and how to avoid them as best as possible:
Dizziness & Light Headiness
When you turn yourself upside down, blood rushes to your head, and as a result, you can feel dizzy. If you start to feel this, come out of your pose slowly and sit down. If you experience vertigo at all, it may be best to avoid inversions altogether.
Pain or Injury
Moving upside down requires a good amount of both arm and core strength. If you move into a pose too quickly without practising these inversions and building up the proper strength you need, you could end up causing yourself pain or injury, especially poses where your head is close to the ground, as this puts your neck at risk.
The best way to avoid any risks is to move into poses slowly, remember to stop or ease up if you have any dizziness or sharp shooting pains, and ask someone to spot you if it's your first or second time trying a more complicated inversion.
Doing yoga inversions can be fun, and turning your body upside down now and again actually has many different benefits. Some of them are also super simple such as the downward-facing dog or forward fold. They are also great ways to practice and prepare yourself for doing more advanced inversions such as handstands and headstands.