It is no longer news the fact that Yoga can keep us alive and free from incessant hospital visits. This is one area of alternative care that orthodox medicine agrees with. While the regular fitness exercises is as beneficial as advertised by increasing blood flow, Yoga achieves same but in a less anaerobic state. The specificity of Yoga makes it a far better way to stay healthy. The twist, conscious breathing, relaxation, and inversions all combine to confer the kind of health non yoga practioners can only hope for.
Let’s take a look at the effects of yoga inversions. These include all forms of yoga practice that involves turning the down-side-up. Examples include shoulder stand (salamba sarvangasana), half shoulder stand (viparita karani), and headstand (salamba shirshasana). While this practice indisputably has a lot of benefits so is the downside of it, details of which we shall take a look into in this expose`.
Yoga Inversions and the Immunes System
There is a network of tubular vessels that runs along with the neurovascular bundles throughout the length and breadth of our body. Its major duty is fluid regulation as it works along with blood vessels. Edema (fluid accumulation) that presents as swelling in the respective part of the body is as a result of fluid accumulation in the lymphatic’s of that part of the body. Veins and arteries possess smooth muscles (longitudinal and circular) responsible for peristaltic movement that helps to propel blood aside from the pumping activity of the heart. None of these mechanisms is available in lymphatics.
The lymphatics are very rich in white blood cells responsible in fighting bacteria and other disease causing micro organisms but they lack the mechanism of peristalses. This prevents adequate circulation of its content- the reason our legs become swollen when we sit down for long periods. It therefore means that proper lymphatic circulation is dependent upon how much we move around. Movement causes skeletal muscles contraction and tightening of the muscles fasciae (the sheet-like covering of skeletal muscles) which in turn help circulate the lymphatic fluids. Regular exercises can achieve this but not between the body extremes. Yoga inversions are the only known effective practice that can ensure that lymphatic fluids circulate adequately from head to toe to equitably distribute the large amount of WBCs for healthy living.
Bacteria infections are prone where there is stasis of body fluids as there provide a good medium for their growth. Proper circulation of lymphatic fluid prevents this.
Improvement of Mental Alertness and Focus with Yoga Inversions
The increased circulation resulting from this practice also increases blood circulation to the brain, delivering higher amount of oxygen needed for combustion. The steady and adequate energy supply to the brain, which results from this, increases our level of concentration and mental sharpness. There are very few effective practices that can keep the brain this healthy.
Inversions improve stamina and the strength of the upper body
Expectedly the regular practice of Yoga inversions builds the muscles of the upper limbs. Following continuous bearing of the weight from the upper body, the muscles of the arm strengthen and overall increases stamina.
Effects of Inversions on Hormones
Inversions upset gravity and the pituitary and pineal gland become activated and synergize to balance hormone levels in the body. This revitalizes and rejuvenates the entire body and ensures adequate growth. Particular usefulness of the practice is found in would-be mothers.
As beneficial as it may be, there are also contraindications of yoga inversions. There are a series of health condition in which if existing, yoga inversions should be entirely avoided or modified. They include pregnancy, neck pain, high or low blood pressure, neck injuries, or in menstruation.
Yoga Inversions and High Blood Pressure
The sudden lower blood pressure after an inversion exercise in the upper body is detected by the baroreceptors (Blood pressure regulators) around the neck and usually attempt to increase the blood pressure to higher levels under normal circumstances. In people with high blood pressure, this adds to an existing high blood pressure and worsens hypertension and may lead to stroke. So it is advisable that people with high blood pressure avoid inversions and instead should adopt other forms of yoga practice or consult an instructor for proper advice.
In low blood pressure, the reverse is possible. During inversions, there is increase blood pressure in the upper body. This is sensed as abnormal by the baroreceptors that subsequently try to reduce same and may result in extremely low blood pressure afterwards leading to dizziness, fainting or cardiogenic shock.
Effect on Pregnancy and Menstruation
The effect on pregnancy is similar as above. Normally, blood pressure increases are recorded during pregnancy and involving in yoga inversions during this period is not advisable. The common problems associated with this are preeclampsia, premature labour, and aggravation of Pregnancy Induced Hypertension especially in first time pregnancies (primi gravidae).
So women should suspend inversions once pregnancy sets in and may resume about four to eight weeks after delivery when progesterone levels would have reduced towards pre-pregnancy levels.
In Yoga: The Path to Holistic Health, B.K.S. Iyengar inversions are advocated during menstruation based on the claims it helps overflow. There are also some schools of thought that are entirely against Yoga Inversions during menstruation. However, none of these claims seems substantiated as many other authors also contradict one another. So women should be left alone to make their individual decisions on inversions during menstruation. Individuals should however observe how they respond to inversions during menstruation and decide for themselves what works.
Neck Injuries and Inversions
It is dangerous for persons with neck injuries to practice inversions. In an event of a slip or further trauma to the neck, the outcome could be disastrous. Same with those with injuries at the back along the vertebra column. This group should avoid inversions until it is all clear from the doctor.
The entire benefits one can derive from yoga inversions far out-weight the disadvantages as long as it is properly done, as well as know when it must be avoided or modified taking into consideration the various contra indications.