A blog by runners. For runners.

Upside down: The benefits of inversions for runners

The benefits of inversionsIf you’ve ever been to a yoga class, you may have heard the teacher say something along the lines of “take your choice of inversion” and then watched a slew of heads drop and legs lift. In yoga, inverting means to take an asana (or physical pose) where your head is below your heart. Even more clearly – you go upside down. This can be a simple pose, such as downward facing dog or legs up the wall, or a more complicated posture, like a headstand or handstand.

Regardless of which inversion you choose, all runners can benefit from going upside down. That’s because inversions:

  1. Build core strength. Holding yourself upside down requires an incredible amount of strength in your core as you constantly work to correct your equilibrium. If you need an exercise to complement sit-ups or planks, try inverting to work those abs.
  2. Have a calming effect. Yogis have reported being upside down, for even a short period of time, calms their minds. It may be from the concentration needed to hold these postures or from a renewed focus on the breath but either way, it’s hard to think about that work email when you’re busy lifting your legs high above you.
  3. Reduce swelling and increases circulation. We all know we should elevate an injury. This is elevation on steroids. Bringing your legs above your heart can help the lymphatic system move fluid away from the affected area.
  4. Are a new challenge. Often times we get stagnant in our physical practice, whether that’s running, biking, or yoga. Attempting something new, that you may not be able to master right away, keeps things interesting. I’ve been practicing handstands for 10 years and am still not proficient enough to hold one in the middle of the room but I try, every day. (Seriously, I turn myself upside down against a wall everyday in the hopes of becoming a master inverter.)
  5. Are fun. When you were a kid did you spend your summers doing handstands in the grass or in the pool? Inversions can help turn off that serious side of your brain and allow you to take a few minutes to simply play.
  6. Provide a new perspective. We tend to be very set in our routines. Coming upside can help us see things differently, physically and mentally. If you’re suffering from writer’s block or struggling with a work problem, get upside down and see if the answer doesn’t come to you there.

Inversions aren’t for everyone; if you suffer from high blood pressure, glaucoma, or are pregnant you may want to abstain from beginning an inversion practice. Some poses may be just fine – but it’s always best to consult with your doctor first.

Written by Lisa Chase.

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