Ok, so many ways to try and address this. First let’s just try to get our thoughts organized, so that this doesn’t get out of control. Here’s what is typically said in many yoga classes, “gravity is harmful to us or at the very least takes it toll on human bodies as we age.” The follow up to that statement is the postulate that inverted yoga poses can help combat those gravitational forces.
No. no no no no nooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo
In case you haven’t heard these statements before, here are the results of a google search using “yoga poses fights gravity”:
When we turn the body upside down, we reverse the pull of gravity and create long-lasting benefits for our entire system! Some claim that for every minute spent in headstand, the aging process is suspended. Inversions (even half inversions like downward facing dog or standing forward bend) allow a fresh flow of blood to the brain, they enable you to see the world from a different perspective, and, when you can get your legs above your heart, they provide a much-welcomed rest for the circulatory system. I’ve had many students tell me they measure at least an inch taller after beginning a consistent yoga practice.
In a sense, spending time upside down temporarily suspends aging since you aren’t susceptible to gravity in the same way that you are for the vast majority of your life. You also give your heart a break, as it doesn’t have to work so hard to get blood to and from your extremities when you are upside-down. This little breather helps your heart gather its strength…Finally, inversions help the flow of lymphatic fluid, which is an important component of the immune system.
Because forward-bending poses fight against gravity by turning the head toward the ground instead of toward the sky, Fanto refers to them as fountains of youth. Blood flows into the face faster, bringing with it oxygen and other helpful nutrients that fight free radicals, encourage skin cell renewal, and give the visage a rosy glow.
It reverses gravity (yes, it’s anti-aging!), restoring the position of vital organs and increases the circulation to the neck resulting in an improved quality of sleep (which might be the main reason why you find yourself so tired in the first place). Circulation to the brain also surges, which can help things like intelligence, memory, vitality and confidence. Inversions are revitalization incarnate.
Honestly, no offense meant to the quoted sites. Despite the fact that we disagree with the popular thinking that makes up the yoga-gravity dialogue, these sites may still be full of other useful information. But the aforementioned dialogue does need to be acknowledged and engaged with in such a way as to improve upon our work as yoga teachers.
There are immediately two concepts that have not been mentioned that if included would make this “yogic science” more well-rounded and valid:
Homeostasis – a process in which the body’s internal environment is kept stable.
A belief in the Inherent value of of yogic postures
This first part of the post is to get you familiar with popular, but scientifically questionable claims surrounding an inversion practice. Part 2 of this post will discuss why we don’t agree with what has been covered here now by analyzing the claims through the lens of homeostasis. Part 3 will tackle the (we think controversial) belief in the power of yoga poses to affect the human experience in specific ways. We will further flush out and use these two concepts as an argument against the use of inversions for the purpose of combating the effects of gravity. We look forward to any thoughts you may have to contribute to this discussion. Please feel free to use the comments section or our FB page.