Don’t Make Any New Year’s Resolutions


Having volunteered to do offer reflective meditation sessions at a NYE party, I decided that I’ll start by asking people to reflect on the good things in the past year, things for which they can be grateful. Then to reflect on the challenges, on what could be learned from them and how to apply the learning to make positive changes in the coming year.
Finally to imagine all the results of those changes when doing this process again in a year’s time.
If there is time I’ll suggest they share in pairs for a few minutes to help clarify and consolidate what came up.
We’ll complete the session with a short mindfulness meditation.

Then in the wondrous and mysterious way in which life works, I came across this post & podcast by Tim Ferriss where he is suggesting almost the same process, with some minor differences. He also recommends reading a post by  Chris Cordry who has been doing this for 5 years.

I liked the idea of doing it as a written process with columns and was astonished that my good things column has turned out to be 4x longer than the challenges. Just that has already made me feel really good. I decided to add 2 columns for the learning and how to apply it.

Top of my challenges is habitual negative thoughts. I now know I can change these and have many tools to do so: 
• dialogue with the thoughts to check if they are telling me anything useful 
• observe the negative sensations they generate as energy moving through and out of my body
• simply commanding my mind to shut the f*** up and focus on something constructive and empowering
• remembering I am not my thoughts, but the Conscious Awareness in which thoughts and sensations are arising 
• yoga 
• work
• walking in the park 
• cleaning house (!!)
• doing an act of kindness
• smiling at people in the street
and many, many more……

However, these negative thoughts are a long term habit, programmed when I was very young and my personality was still under construction and they may never go away. The trick is to not take them seriously. My plan is to give them some silly names, so I can greet each one when they come to visit and invite them in for tea and a chat.

By this time next year I’ll be feeling grateful that we can all have a good laugh together over a cuppa – and maybe some cake.



‘There’s No Reason Why We Can’t All Wake Up’ – Roland Griffiths

Yesterday I finished listening to a fascinating podcast interview of Roland Griffiths on the Tim Ferris Show. Griffiths is a research scientist with a particular interest in the nature of human consciousness and a long term meditator. He is also dying from stage 4 cancer and currently looking forward to this next great adventure!!!  

The podcast is over 3 hours long and I did not expect to get through it all, but I found it riveting enough to listen (in stages) all the way to the end. 

Two of the topics they discussed are particularly close to my heart; how people can awaken out of the story their mind is telling them and how we approach death. 

I was already in my 30s when suddenly one morning I became conscious of the voice in my head, which:
1) I realised had always been there
2) was telling me things I would not say to my worst enemy!!!
It seems that everyone has this internal voice; incessantly commentating, evaluating, comparing, judging, criticising, putting us down or (less often!) patting us on the back, …. 

One of the principal aims of yoga is to calm this constant internal chatter, in order to learn to dis-identify from it, free ourselves from its tyranny, so that we can become aware of the Awareness that is beyond mind, the Consciousness that we are. 

A wonderful quote from Salman Rushdie:
“The only ones who see the whole picture are those who step out of the frame.”

I have sometimes suggested to my students to imagine the mind chatter as a TV set playing in a pub. The images or narrative tend to capture your attention (often even when the subject holds little interest for you), but you can also choose instead to shift attention back to the real life conversation with your actual companions. In a similar way Mindfulness teaches us to bring attention to the present moment via the current sensations in the body (body scan) and/or the breathing (mindfulness of breathing), also walking or eating mindfully (e.g. raisin meditation), because, in order to do so, we have to mentally ‘tune out’ of the thinking mind narrative.

In classes I frequently ask students to pause and check in to observe their inner experience, how they are at the beginning of the session, what they’d like to be feeling by the end, any changes they notice from the physical (asana) practices, … These are like micro mindfulness meditations, which we can actually do at any time, anywhere. Pema Chodron talks of them as ‘minding the gap’, the space between / behind / beyond thoughts. In so doing we become increasingly aware of both the peaceful, spacious Awareness that is always present and accessible and also of the (often aberrant) unconscious, habitual thought patterns and beliefs that generate our emotions. This gives us both insight and the possibility to change those habits.

Pema Chodron with Oprah Winfrey

Pema Chodron is a Canadian Tibetan Buddhist nun, spiritual teacher and author of some of the most readable, entertaining and inspiring books on the practical application of Buddhist philosophy to common life challenges. She’s in her 80s, thus like Griffiths, is approaching the end of her life. I am currently following her online course, This Sacred Journey – On Living Purposefully and Dying Fearlessly. She also is not only equanimous, even humorous about her impending death, but is apparently even relishing the prospect as an interesting transition to whatever comes next… !

Finally if you’d like to be able to have a frank, healthy, open-hearted conversation about death – your own, that of a loved one or in general, over tea and cake(!) I highly recommend attending a Death Café. It is a more life affirming experience than you might imagine.

Posture, Energy and Mood

This is a follow on from my last post

Our posture, vitality and mood interweave in such a way that any one affects and reflects the other two. When we are happy, joyful, in high spirits it manifests in an open, expansive, energetic demeanour. Conversely when we are feeling low our posture tends to collapse downwards and inwards. This restricts breathing and reduces vitality. Also when our gaze is directed downwards, we are more focused inwards, more introverted, less connected with the world and others and more likely to be ruminating in a vicious cycle of negative thoughts and feelings. 

Language expresses this downward pull, we talk of feeling down, in low spirits, downcast, downhearted, on a downer, down in the dumps, down at mouth, crestfallen, depressed

A homework that has sometimes been prescribed for depressed people is to walk around the streets counting chimney pots, because the physical action of looking upwards lifts our head and the chest follows. This means we can breathe more easily, have more energy and feel better in ourselves.

In this, the last week of the month, the theme of classes will again be mainly focusing on bringing awareness, movement and prana into the upper body; upper chest and back, shoulder girdle, neck, head and special senses (the ‘portals’ via which we perceive and respond to the world). 

The energetic current associated with the upper body is Udana Vayu, the upward flow of prana. It holds us upright, enables us to ‘stand tall’, to express ourselves particularly using our voice. It lifts our spirits and raises our level of consciousness. It is also said to facilitate the separation of the soul from the body when it dies. 

We will also reflect on some of our own habits and simple steps we could take to improve our posture, vitality, state of mind and being. 

I wish I could show you,
when you are lonely or in darkness,
the Astonishing Light of your own Being.”

– Hafiz

Dump The Slump

Let us hope that one of the good things that will emerge from the pandemic will be an end to the culture which all but awarded a medal of honour to those who ‘soldiered on’ in the face of illness, colds and flu and continued to go into the office to work (enabling viruses they were suffering from to spread and thrive!)

With the ever increasing pressure and drive towards more success, achievement and profit, at the expense of quality of life and happiness, society has trained us to push through minor ailments and aches and pains, as just a ‘normal part of life’. Thus, we learn to ignore the natural warning signals from our body, telling us something is wrong and we need to change what we are doing (and adjust our priorities). Waiting until we are immobilised with pain or illness, is likely to have far more long term, negative repercussions.

Poor postural habits can so easily creep up on us, just because of sitting still for long periods – especially when using un-ergonomic furniture and work equipment positioning. In the recent circumstances, many of us have found ourselves having to improvise home offices in our kitchens and bedrooms, imagining it would only be short term….! 

Last week, I focused on sitting, the optimal position of the pelvis and how we can take simple measures to ensure our sitting posture is not damaging our spine (see video on Youtube).

This week I am bringing attention to the upper body and how a slumped posture (which, when sitting, starts from the pelvis) can lead to a chronic imbalance known as ‘upper crossed syndrome’.    

You can see this in action in the photos and even that it can start in childhood.

Imagine how common it is these days and how it might be affecting you or those around you.

The short term effect is restricted breathing, lower vitality and poor concentration (often sending us off in search of a fix of caffeine and/ or sugar!) The knock on effect is that the chronically over- stretched upper back muscles, are working extra hard to hold us upright. They become weakened, start to ache and may even develop fibrotic knots. We then feel as if we need to stretch (!) or get a massage, which brings only temporary relief. The shortened neck muscles get more and more tense, also ache and can lead to headaches – but we just pop some pills and soldier on….. 

With the loss of adequate muscle support and such poor alignment, the ligaments and joints also begin to cause trouble….

…maybe you can get the picture.

To redress the situation we need a good balance of strengthening, for the weakened back muscles with mild, gravity-resisted back bends and gentle, sustained lengthening for the short chest muscles, using supported, restorative chest releasing poses. These can be combined with breathing and attention to restrictions in the breathing mechanics.

In this week’s classes we will be exploring some poses and techniques along these lines.

Cobra Pose & Reclined Bound Angle Pose
Inhale, circle arms up, exhale out and down.

The most important things is to remove the underlying causes – long periods of sitting still, with poor posture at un-ergonomic work set ups. The solution is not difficult; adjust the position to improve posture and preserve the natural spinal curves, build in some activity, establish a routine of regular movement breaks with conscious breathing shoulder and arm movements.
The added benefits are that this will help reduce the need for caffeine and sugar and lead to better concentration, higher energy levels and even improved sleep quality.

Studies of a tribal people in Tanzania, the Hadza show that they actually sit around as much as we do, but in ways that are more active and they do not suffer from the same problems as us.

Agni – The Fire of Transformation

Agni as fire is one of the five inert impermanent elements (pañcabhūtá) along with space (ākāśa), water (ap), air (vāyu) and earth (pṛthvī), the five combining to form the empirically perceived material world (Prakriti).

The word Agni is used in many contexts, ranging from fire in the stomach (the digestive fire / internal cooking pot), the cooking fire in a home, the sacrificial fire in an altar, the fire of cremation, the fire of rebirth, the fire in the energetic saps within plants, the atmospheric fire in lightning and the celestial fire in the sun. 

In the Vedas, Agni represents all the gods, all concepts of spiritual energy that permeates everything in the universe. In the Upanishads and post-Vedic literature, Agni additionally became a metaphor for the immortal principle in man, and energy or knowledge that consumes and dispels a state of darkness and ignorance, transforms and procreates an enlightened state of being. 

In the body Agni is the digestive fire, located in the digestive organs, which are responsible for the processes by which food is broken down by acid and enzymes, to be absorbed and transformed into body substances.

In Ayurveda, agni combined with water forms Pitta Dosha which provides heat and transformation and resides in the area of the solar plexus, below the diaphragm.  

On an emotional level agni equates with fire in the belly and gives us drive to action. It is also the crucible for the processing (digestion) and transformation of experience into understanding and wisdom. 

It is not uncommon for unprocessed emotional experiences to cause chronic tension around the diaphragm, a sort of emotional indigestion. 

In this week’s classes the theme is to stoke the internal fire, stimulate prana and bring consciousness to this area to help release deep emotional tension.

The classes will include abdominal work, twists and side bends, breathing techniques that stimulate the diaphragm and generate heat.   

Through the invitation of some self-enquiry, we’ll explore any deep held emotions that might now be ready to be transformed into wisdom.

Human Feet – A Feat of Engineering

The human foot is a masterpiece of engineering and a work of art.” – Leonardo da Vinci

The human foot is a strong and complex mechanical structure containing 26 bones, 33 joints and more than a hundred muscles, tendons, and ligaments.

The foot has two longitudinal arches and a transverse arch, which are maintained by the interlocking shapes of the foot bones lashed together by over 100 different ligaments, also assisted by the pull of muscles and tendons during movement. The slight mobility and elastic mechanics of these arches enables them to absorb and return energy during contact with the ground and this spring-like function is an important energetic saving mechanism.

(Fascinating Fact: Podophilia or foot fetish is one of the most common fetishes.)

The phalanges form the bendable toes. The calcaneus forms the heel bone. In between are the slender metatarsals and the irregular interlocking blocks of the tarsal bones, which could be the design of a master mason the way they ingeniously fit together into an arch.

When it goes wrong
Given the complexity of the foot and the demands made on it, it is astonishing that it functions for many people, throughout life, as well as it does.

Common problems include:
Fallen arches
Sprained ankle
Achilles tendonitis
Plantar fasciitis
Nerve inflammation
Calluses and cracked heels

Many of which can be alleviated or prevented by simple measures and exercises.

In my classes this week we will do some yoga based techniques for the feet and related areas, as well as a few foot care tips.

“Our hands and feet are biomechanical marvels. More than any other piece of anatomy, they are what have made us such a successful species.”

The Core Muscles – Functions, Facts and Exercises

The body’s core is essentially a more or less cylindrical, muscular box, that encloses the abdominal organs. It consists of 3-4 muscle layers, the innermost of which is sometimes referred to as the ‘deep core’.

The innermost deep core muscles: 
• transversus abdominis (TA) – the front, sides and side back 
• transversospinalis (principally multifidus) – the back (between the vertebrae) 
• respiratory diaphragm – the roof 
• pelvic floor – the floor 
• quadratus lumborum (QL) – the side back
(The quadratus lumborum is included here because of its importance in stabilising the floating rib attachments of the diaphragm)

When contracting as a team, all these deep core muscles compress the abdominal cavity and raise intra-abdominal pressure. It can be further squeezed by the more superficial muscle layers, enabling ‘things’ to be expelled downward (defaecation, childbirth) or upward (forced expiration, vomiting, coughing, sneezing etc.). 

The central anterior ‘seam’ where the left and right sides of the body join is the linea alba and the abdominal muscles attach to it via a thin tendinous, fascial membrane called the abdominal aponeurosis.
The posterior ‘seam’ is formed by the spine, with the muscles attached into the thoraco-lumbar fascia.
It might help to visualise the anterior linea alba as a sort of zip, holding 2 strong, inelastic, flexible pieces of ‘fabric’ together, from which the elastic muscular fibres wrap around the body. Posteriorly the muscle fibres again attach to similar firm pieces of ‘fabric’ which meet at the spine, where the multifidus muscles could be visually likened to the laces of the second corset. However, whereas the laces hold the 2 sides together, the multifidus group compress the spine vertically.

Hiccups are involuntary contractions of the diaphragm. Each contraction is followed by a sudden closure of the vocal cords, which produces the characteristic “hic” sound. They can be caused by a large meal, swallowing air while eating /drinking, alcoholic or carbonated beverages or sudden excitement. Occasionally, prolonged hiccups may be a sign of an underlying medical condition. Hiccups are only found in mammals, and are most common in infants, becoming rarer with age. This may suggest that they evolved to allow air trapped in the stomach of suckling infants to escape, allowing more milk to be ingested. (Remedies include distracting the person, concentrating on something like heart beats and big movements of the diaphragm – a very deep inhalation, continuing to suck in as much breath as one can, holding the breath, then as complete an exhalation as possible, continuing to squeeze out as much breath as one can and holding the breath out. Another possible cure could be the yoga breathing exercise kapalabhti).

The abdominal walls are reinforced by the crisscross effect of the internal and external abdominal obliques and the vertical stability is provided by the rectus abdominis and errector spinae group.

When all the muscles contract together, while attempting to exhale against a closed airway (either throat or nose), this creates a firm pressurised column and is known as the valsava maneuver. It is used by body builders when powerlifting and for some cardiac function tests. Because it alters the rhythm of the heart, it can help stop palpitations caused by anxiety. When the nose is pinched, instead of closing the throat, Pressure is also raised in the head and can be used to equalise pressure and shift blockages in the ears and sinuses.

In addition to providing a flexible and compressible container for the abdominal organs, the core muscles perform or assist the various movements of the torso: flexion-extension, side bending / lateral flexion and rotation.  

Muscles that attach the torso to the legs and operate the hip joints are sometimes included as part of the core, especially the psoas major and minor and even the iliacus. This is partly because of the psoas’ location down the inside back wall of the abdominal cavity (the iliacus the back wall of the pelvic cavity), that the spinal attachments of the psoas overlap with those of the diaphragm and the role of the psoas in lumbar extension / flexion which is not discussed here.
A stable core forms the anchor, from which the hip muscles are able to operate the hip joints and move the legs. Thus, using the iliopsoas to raise the legs against gravity demands more muscular work to maintain a stable core and can be part of a sequence of core strengthening exercises.


Youtube video of this sequence

1. Support head and neck in clasped hands to allow the throat area to remain relaxed and open. Curl up to engage the abdominal flexors and keep the lumbar spine fixed.
Alternately extend each leg up on inhale and slowly exhale to lower it towards the floor, eccentrically contracting the iliopsoas. Then bend it into the chest, in a bicycling movement 3-5x. Rest if needed. Repeat with a slight twist of the upper body to one side then the other to focus more into the oblique muscles 3-5x.
2. Twist the upper body to one side and both knees to the other and hold for 3-5 breaths with minimal effort.

Pause here, supine with knees bent, hands on belly and take a few relaxed abdominal breaths, softening and relaxing all the muscles which have just been working.

3. Roll onto one side; knees bent up level with pelvis, head resting on underneath arm. Wrap uppermost arm over head to support from the opposite side. Exhale to lift head and chest up off the floor, while also lifting uppermost shin and foot (internally rotating the hip) contracting the side waist (abdominal obliques and QL). Inhale lower to floor and arch the underneath side of the waist off the floor. Repeat 3-5x (+/- hold 3-5 breaths).
4. Lie prone with forehead on the floor arms forward alongside head (or 90º to sides with elbows bent to 90º). Press pubis into the floor, exhale to lift head, one arm and diagonally opposite leg, inhale down. Repeat opposite diagonal 3-5x (+/- hold 3-5 breaths)
5. Place hands under shoulders, ‘glue’ hands to the mat, lift the torso and let the pelvis hang back behind the knees to create some traction in the torso and spine. 1-2 breaths.
6. Relax in child’s pose, breathing into the back ~5 breaths.

See a video of this sequence on Youtube


This co-contraction of a triad of muscles, lower transversus abdominis, transverse perineal muscles and multifidi, stabilises the low back and sacroiliac joints and is especially in yoga therapy useful when there is an injury, pain or hyper-mobility.
It seems very likely that this is what is meant by Mula Bandha.

Lying supine with knees bent. Exhale fully and gently engage the lower TA, below the navel, as if squeezing it in and slightly downwards, towards the pelvic floor. Eventually you’ll notice a subtle lift of the pelvic floor.
Inhale release. Repeat several times, allowing the area to soften and expand on the inhale.
Engage the lock and hold with a few normal breaths.
Engage the lock and do a few twists, taking the knees from side to side, breathing as normal.
Practice engaging the lock while doing other small simple movements, then when walking.
The muscular contraction should more like subtle tone rather than tension or effort.
Be sure to completely relax when the lock is not required, breathe into the area and feel the expansion of the muscles.
More specific pelvic floor exercises will be in another post.

See my schedule of classes, both independent and through Triyoga

Havening – Creating An Emotional ‘Safe Haven’ Through Touch

This remarkably simple psycho-sensory technique was devised by Dr Ronald Ruden. Similar to EMDR and tapping, it calms, soothes and neutralises overwhelming and difficult emotions and can be used in the management of phobias, post-traumatic stress and anxiety.

It can be applied to another person or to oneself and involves a repetitive, stroking, caressing touch to the upper arms, hands and / or face. It can be used to calm a distressed person in the moment or to neutralise distressing memories from past events. The subject would in that case be asked to recall the emotionally disturbing event while the practitioner gently applies Havening touch to their arms, hands and face. 

My video shows how to apply a combination of all three variations to oneself. I have included the addition of crossed hands for the face. This creates a continuous flow all the way to the hands, but also it feels more like receiving the soothing touch from someone else. You will be surprised at how pleasant and relaxing it is.

Dr Ruden studied how and why it seemed so effective and Doug O’Brien has made an excellent video with clear explanations of the likely neuroscience behind Havening.

Because of its no-cost simplicity, research studies on its clinical effectiveness are very limited. One sample of 27 participants completed self-reported measures of depression, anxiety, and social adjustment before, and one week and two months after, a Havening intervention. Scores on the different measures were better after the intervention than before. The authors note that the study is limited by “its small sample size” and “lack of control group”.


An interview with Dr Ronald Ruden, the originator of Havening

Paul McKenna shows how Havening can be combined with EMDR

Dr Robin Youngson demonstrating Havening

Yoga to Support Fertility

April 24th 2018

Of the women who have come to me for yoga therapy to assist conception, only one did not conceive and she realised after a few sessions that she actually was not at all sure she even wanted to have children!

All had been thoroughly medically investigated and several were undergoing fertility treatment. One couple did have some medical impediments. She was diagnosed as pre-menopausal (premature at only 36) AND her husband’s sperm had poor motility. She was a tall, rather thin, sinewy type, creative, hyperactive and doing a very strong, dynamic yoga practice (a typical vata dosha prakruti – see the last section on Ayurvedic Doshas). They were determined to have a child and did everything they could to enhance their fertility. They kept to a very healthy diet and regular mealtimes, gave up alcohol, reduced work commitments, including travelling, and followed a sustained course of acupuncture and Chinese herbs. She (and sometimes he) did the daily yoga routine I drew up for her; slow mindful movement sequences with lots of focus on breathing, some restorative poses and the guided relaxation that I recorded specially for her (a variation is included in the package). At first she found it quite a challenge to slow down so much and occasionally felt the need to do a more dynamic practice, but after a while, as she discovered the benefits, she enjoyed the slower practice more and more and went walking / gentle jogging in the park if she felt the need for more exercise. They even got a puppy and took to spending more time out in nature – amongst the birds, the bees, the flowers and trees….!! It took 2 years and their third assisted conception (ICSI) worked. Now they have a lovely daughter.

A woman’s body needs to be soft and ‘juicy’ to assist conception. Strong, dynamic exercise (and strong yoga styles / practices) tend to be too heating and drying. It is best to do a gentle, slow-moving, mindful yoga practice, with more focus on breathing and relaxation and to avoid overworking and stressful activities. Walk in nature as much as possible and do the things that bring you joy. Keep to a regular daily routine of meal times and sleep, avoid excess cold, raw foods, stimulants and too much time on the computer and internet, especially in the evenings. This deranges vata dosha, which dries out the body, can reduce fertility, stirs up nervous energy and anxiety and disturbs sleep.

Commit to making the yoga practice part of your regular daily routine, even if you can sometimes only manage a few minutes or just 1 technique.

Repeat and visualise your intention daily before and at the end of the practice. Open your mind and your heart to receive and accept whatever happens. You can only do your best and leave the rest to the Universe.

Go to this page to download a free package of yoga and hypnotherapy techniques to support fertility

Inversions – Anti-gravity Poses

October 4th 2020

It is sometimes said in jest that the definition of an adult is a person who has stopped growing vertically and started growing horizontally! In youth we defy gravity through the process of growing upwards and with our physical energy and activity. Then we reach a peak, turn the corner and begin to surrender to gravity….. eventually literally shrinking and sagging back down into the earth! The inverted postures are considered to be a way of slowing down the ageing effects of gravity, by temporarily reversing it, which is why they are often described as rejuvenating poses and recommended to be done every day. One of my students, who lived in South Korea, described discovering, in an area of a public park, set aside for various physical fitness practices, a slanted inversion apparatus. She was astonished to see people in their 80s, 90s and even one of 108, hanging upside down for up to an hour a day and to hear that most had been doing so for decades. Although, other factors, such as diet, almost certainly played a part in their remarkable sprightliness, the story is still quite a testament to the rejuvenating power of inversions. However, like most fabled elixirs of youth, inversions do not come without risks.

Sirsasana (headstand) and Sarvangasana (shoulderstand), known as the King and Queen of asanas, are amongst the most powerful of yoga poses in terms of their immediate and long term physiological, energetic and emotional effects and should be approached with respect and caution. They are also amongst the most contentious of yoga postures and the headstand, especially is one that most beginners to yoga aspire to – often before they are ready. Both require a high level of experience and awareness in order to achieve the correct alignment and avoid dangerous pressure on the head and neck. This is done mainly by correct ergonomic positioning, which requires flexibility and adequate strength of the supporting muscles and also by actively pressing downwards, so as to create what feels like an upward rebound effect from gravity. Thus, one gains maximum benefit while minimising the risk of injury. The main danger is that damage from poor practice, tends to be done gradually, over a period of time and without the practitioner being aware of it, until symptoms appear. This unfortunately is when the harm has already been done. 

One of the most obvious effects of inversions is the reversal of the action of gravity on circulation. It is an age old recommendation to put ones’ feet up for the relief of general fatigue and also for aching, swelling, varicose veins and tiredness in the legs. Blood and lymph are thus more quickly drained from the legs towards the heart and it has an overall relaxing effect. Thus a small degree of inversion already gives marked benefits. With a greater degree of inversion, the increased venous return to the heart stimulates it to contract more strongly, thus exercising the cardiac muscle. Blood flow to the upper body is greatly increased. We experience this immediately and, for many people, it takes several months of gradually building up, both the time in the poses and the degree of inversion, for the body to be able to adjust and be comfortable in the fully inverted position. There are baroreceptors in the carotid arteries which are triggered by the stretch caused by increased blood flow. They bring about a reflex, short term lowering of the blood pressure. With progressive training, the body’s adaptation mechanisms are stimulated to respond more quickly, inversions become more comfortable and the longer term benefits increase. Inversions ultimately have a calming effect and thus good for alleviating stress, fatigue, anxiety, mild depression, insomnia and some types of headache.

Click on the image to see a short video of a sequence of 2 supported inversions, which can be done on your sofa or armchair at home.

While there is an obvious increase in blood flow to the head, it is a common belief, amongst yoga practitioners, that inverting the body increases blood flow to the brain. If this were true, most people, when inverting, would run some risk of a blood vessel bursting inside the brain, causing a stroke or, if a vessel ruptured in the eye, possible blindness. The body has, especially within delicate structures like the brain and the eyes, mechanisms for protecting itself, e.g the blood brain barrier. However, with chronic high blood pressure, the normal protective mechanisms do not work so well. This condition is also associated with hardening of the arteries, causing them to be more fragile, – much like an elastic band, which has been over-stretched too much for too long. High blood pressure is thus one of the main contra-indications for inverted poses. At the same time there is evidence that stimulating the blood pressure regulators, e.g. with exercise, helps to lower the resting blood pressure for longer periods of time. It may be possible that mild inversions and a slight increase in blood flow through the carotid arteries, could trigger lowering of blood pressure and be beneficial, with minimal risk. More controlled research is needed.

The simple fact of experiencing the world from an inverted perspective, visually and physiologically, can shift a mental or emotional blockage and help clear the mind. Many yoga techniques cause a rapid physiological and energetic change which alters body chemistry, mood and thoughts. Learning inversions also challenges many people to overcome a certain amount of fear and are thus very confidence building.   

Many claims have been made and passed around in yoga classes, for the benefits of inversions, not all of which are as yet supported by actual, clinical evidence. At the same time, many dire warnings are issued about dangers, which are also not proven. If in doubt, it is of course, always advisable to remain on the side of caution, start low and only gradually build up to inverting more for longer periods, as the body adapts.