Yoga Classes: What are Inverted Asanas?
Whether you attend physical yoga classes or follow yoga classes online you will almost certainly have come across an inverted asana.
As with all things in yoga, there are a couple of schools of thought on this. Generally, an inverted asana is any posture where the heart is at a higher level than the head. This doesn’t mean that you have to be in a handstand, headstand or shoulder stand (although these are all inverted asanas), there are much more gentle options: Common inversions found in modern yoga classes include standing forward bend, bowing triangle or even downward facing dog.
What is Venous Return?
The circulatory system comprises the lungs, heart and all of the blood vessels whose job is to transport and distribute oxygen while collecting waste products (such as carbon dioxide). Arteries connect the heart and lungs which all work together to deliver freshly oxygenated blood around the body. Veins return blood to the heart but require muscular movement or gravity to move the blood. There are a number of along the way which prevents ‘backwash’ ensuring that blood continues to move toward the heart in a system called ‘venous return‘.
“Inverted asanas reverse the action of gravity on the body; instead of everything being pulled towards the feet, the orientation shifts towards the head” ¹
This is very beneficial on a physical level for many reasons, but this article is interested in one benefit it particular; venous return.
Venous return can be increased through via a number of manual interventions including massage, cardiovascular exercise or (and this, in my opinion, is by far the best one!) inverted asana as a balanced part of your yoga classes.
For me, it’s about efficiency. All of the other methods of increasing venous return are great and bring their own benefits but a daily 20-minute yoga practice brings such a host of positive effects on a number of different levels that it really is a no-brainer.
There are a ton of positive effects associated with an increase in venous return, however, the explanations are quite long-winded so I’m just going to list the benefits here. For a comprehensive explanation of how these benefits manifest, see this physio.co.uk resource.
- Improved circulation; this means…
- More oxygen and nutrition get to the muscles; leading to…
- Faster muscle repair;
- Increased muscle relaxation;
- Reduced muscle fatigue
- VascodilationVasodilation is where the thin layer of muscle inside the blood vessels relax. occurs widening the blood vessels allowing for even more efficient blood flow.
- Efficient blood flow help to keep muscles healthy and strong.