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Inversions: Turning Yoga on Its Head

The first time my yoga teacher encouraged me to go upside down into a headstand, I yelped.My outburst was just loud enough to let everyone in the class—especially me—know that I was petrified. Stiff as an ancient tree turned to stone, I had to be told to breathe. While some people give no thought to going upside down, it was a Herculean challenge for me. I practiced for four years before I felt comfortable going up away from a wall, unassisted. I’ve since learned that the poses I find most difficult, whatever they may be, have the richest rewards.Headstand, or sirsasana, as it’s called in Sanskrit, is not a beginner’s pose. But it blesses practitioners with a beginner’s mind. It’s almost a cliché: standing on my head gives me a new perspective. But it’s true. Reversing my relationship to gravity alternates the flow of prana, or life force, through my body. Increased blood circulation refreshes the pituitary and pineal glands, located in the head. Blood drains from my legs and is cycled fresh throughout my tissues and organs. Out with the old and in with the new. Yogis credit sirsasana with cultivating c …

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