Looking at the World Upside Down

In This Chapter

^ Making heads or tails of the yogic principle of reversal ^ Working with leg inversions ^ Gravitating toward shoulder stands

Thousands of years ago, the Yoga masters made an amazing discovery: By tricking the force of gravity with the help of inversion exercises, you can reverse the effects of aging, improve your health, and add years to your life.

To picture how inversions work, take a look at a jug of unfiltered apple juice sitting on the grocery store shelf. Gravity has pulled the solids in the juice to the bottom of the jug, diluting the liquid near the top. If you turn the bottle upside down, gravity pulls the bottom sediment toward the top of the inverted jug, remixing the juice with the pulp of the apples.

In a similar way, when you turn yourself upside down, the sediments — mostly blood and lymph (a clear yellowish fluid similar to blood plasma) — that have collected in your lower limbs during a long day of uprightness sink toward your head and revitalize your entire body and mind, helping you face your fears and reversing the tide of stagnation and mental negativity.

The idea that you must practice the headstand to be a "real yogi" just isn't true. We recommend that you avoid the headstand unless an experienced teacher supervises your efforts. The neck is designed to support the 8 pounds of the head, not the 100 or more pounds of the body. Approach the headstand cautiously and only after proper preparation.

Fortunately, you can practice a variety of inversions other than the head-stand. In this chapter, we describe inverted exercises that impart the benefits without the risk. Use yogic breathing (see Chapter 5) to boost their beneficial effect, and grab a prop as necessary to facilitate the postures and ensure easy breathing (see Chapter 19).

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