Saturday, May 14, 2011

Hanging Out, Upside Down

Gravity inversion, or hanging out, upside down, has been a way of life for me for many years now. It all began with learning the headstand pose of Hatha yoga back in the early 1970s. Hippocrates, the father of modern medicine, knew all about the benefits of inverting the spine; he hung patients from ladder rungs on ropes back in antiquity.
After finely getting my balance for this headstand, I was told by a chiropractor not to do it, as x-rays disclosed that I’ve had whiplash in my past that did some damage to my neck years ago. This was not a good pose for me, anymore. What to do? I used the shoulder stand pose instead for a number of years as a substitute but then, in 1983, I purchased my own cabin and piece of land in the woods and noticed that the beams supporting my front porch could easily support me too; you guessed it, upside down!
My gravity inversion device was simple, crude and very cheap but proved to be a hassle to get into. I tied two rope circles off of the large horizontal beams for my feet to go in, and then stood on a tall wood stump chopping block so I could pull myself up to the beam and hold on with one hand, while the other hand quickly attempted to get my work boot through the rope circle- whew!!! After finally getting into this basic harness, I let myself slowly invert by lowering my body down holding a rope tied off with knots. Then I would hang out, sometimes for up to twenty minutes. I would be so relaxed that I nearly fell asleep once. Pulling me back up those rope knots was not so easy! And the hassle of holding my body weight with one hand, while quickly trying to get my darn thick work boot back out of the rope circle, was making this form of yoga a real hassle. There must be a better way!
There was. It came into my life much later, in 2006, as the “gravity inversion table”. My roommate and I happened to purchase one on sale at K-Mart for around $120. That had me off and hanging again. All you do is just pull your arms over your head and lean back on this apparatus. I swear my hair grows faster from the increased blood flow to my scalp and brain. And talk about relaxing! Once you get used to this device and learn to really let go in every body part as you relax into the passing minutes, you’ll find this to be way cool and very meditative. But like anything else in life, this device takes daily practice to measure results. As we age, our spines slowly collapse. That is why really old people look so small. By inverting on a regular basis, you can reverse this aging problem; you will stand straight and walk tall as you grow older.
My mom always told me to walk like I was a puppet on a string, holding me straight up and tall. She’d been in the Army in the second world war, so I’m sure she understood the scream, “attention!” and the value of standing tall with a straight spinal column immediately. The spinal column is the tree of life in our body, period. All yogis know this is where the sacred Kundalini energy is stored, and will one day begin its climb from the base of the spine up the column to the pineal gland in our brain. This channel must be straight. Nobody likes seeing hunched over depressed pathetic people. Stand up straight as you walk through life; it inspires others and you’ll feel better about yourself. If you need help doing this, you might consider hanging out, upside down for awhile. It works for me and I’m sixty-two, with my same height as always- 5 feet, 11”. Hang in there!

1 comment:

  1. Yoga teachers have told me: "You are only as old as your spine." That seems to be true, as you look around at the people you know who are ageing. Your commentary on how to stretch and keep your spine supple are of great value. I've never tried an inversion table, and I am completely amazed that K-Mart would be selling such a thing.

    The "Yoga Journal" has many stories of practitioners who have injured themselves doing headstand asanas, so perhaps for most of us, an inversion table would be a much better option.

    So many of our western diseases appear to be caused by a lack of good circulation. Obviously, vigorous exercise would combat a lot of those problems, but inversion is a even a step further, is it not? One excercise I've learned is to support your lower back, and put your legs up a wall. Putting a weight upon the soles of your feet in that position seems to relieve a lot of pressure as well.

    I will certainly try not to be a hunched-over, depressed and pathetic person, LOL!