Effective Yoga inversions can actually be quite simple. Here are four postures that don’t require you to literally turn yourself upside down in order to enjoy the numerous benefits of an inversion.

Avoid all inverted postures if you have an acute headache or if you experience sudden pain while performing the exercise.

Legs up on a chair

The legs up on a chair posture improves circulation to your legs, hips, and lower back and has a calming effect on your nervous system. It also helps alleviate symptoms of PMS in women and prostatitis in men.

To enjoy these benefits, do the following:

  1. Sit on the floor in a simple cross-legged position facing a sturdy chair and then lean back onto your forearms.

  2. Slide your buttocks along the floor toward the chair until they’re just under the front edge of the chair seat.

  3. While exhaling, lift your feet off the floor and place your heels and calves on the chair seat.

    Make sure that the front edge of the seat is close to the backs of your knees.

  4. Lie back on the floor with your arms near your sides, palms down or up.

  5. Stay in Step 4 for 2 to 10 minutes.

This posture is a variation of the classic (traditionally taught) posture of urdhva prasarita padasana (pronounced oord-hvah prah-sah-ree-tah pahd-ah-sah-nah) which means “upward extended foot posture.”


Legs up on the wall

Legs up on the wall, which is a variation of urdhva prasarita padasana, improves circulation to the legs, hips, and lower back and has a calming effect on the nervous system. It also helps alleviate symptoms of PMS in women and prostatitis in men.

Try it for yourself by following these steps:

  1. Sit sideways with your right side as close to the wall as possible, with both legs extended forward.

  2. As you exhale, swing both legs up on the wall and lie flat on your back.

    Extend your legs up as far as possible. Extend your arms out comfortably at your sides, palms down, and relax.

  3. Stay in Step 2 for 2 to 10 minutes.


The Happy Baby

A variation of urdhva prasarita padasana, Happy Baby improves circulation in the legs, arms, hips, and lower back, and has a calming effect on the nervous system. It also improves the range of motion of the ankles, toes, wrists, and fingers.

Here’s how it works:

  1. Lying on your back with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor, place your arms at your sides with your palms down.

  2. As you exhale, extend your legs and arms up vertically.

    Keep your limbs relaxed as you hold them up.

  3. With your feet, toes, hands, and fingers draw circles in the air both clockwise and counterclockwise.

    You can make your hands and feet go in different directions at the same time. Breathe freely. Keep your arms and legs up as long as you feel comfortable and then return to the starting position.

  4. Repeat Steps 2 and 3 three to five times, but don’t hold the limbs up for more than a total of 5 minutes; you don’t want to tire yourself out or strain your back.

Avoid this posture if you have lower back problems.

Stand spread-legged forward bend at the wall

The standing wide-legged forward bend at the wall, which is a variation of prasarita pada uttanasana, improves circulation in your head and stretches your spine and hamstrings.

Follow these easy steps:

  1. Stand with your back 2 to 3 feet from a sturdy wall, separate your feet to a comfortably wide stance, and then lean your buttocks back against the wall.

  2. As you exhale, bend forward from the hips and hang your arms and head down.

    If your hands touch the floor, grasp your elbows with opposite-side hands and let your forearms hang. Keep your knees soft and relax your neck and head.

  3. Stay in Step 2 for 2 to 3 minutes; use any Yoga breathing technique.

If you feel light-headed when doing this or any other inversion exercise, reduce the duration and increase the time gradually.

About This Article

This article is from the book:

About the book authors:

Larry Payne, PhD, is the founding president of the International Association of Yoga Therapists. Named one of America's most respected yoga teachers by the Los Angeles Times, he also developed yoga programs at UCLA School of Medicine and Loyola Marymount University. Georg Feuerstein, PhD, authored over 30 books on yoga, tantra, and Hinduism. He died in 2012.

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