General Aerial Yoga & Inversion Safety
Before you attempt your aerial routine at home, there are some precautions and inversion safety tips to take into consideration.
- Always start at beginner level and start slow to warm into each session
- Do not perform aerial yoga on a full stomach
- Not recommended for pregnant women
- Avoid if you suffer from vertigo
- Do not attempt if you have had botox in the last 6 hours
- Do not attempt if you have untreated high blood pressure
- Exercise caution if you have had major surgery in the past 6 months
- Don’t wear clothing with exposed zips as this could rip the hammock
- Don’t wear overly loose clothing as it could get caught in the hammock
- Try to cover up as much as possible to limit skin irritation from rubbing against the fabric
- Push yourself for sure, mentally absolutely – BUT never push to the point where it hurts.
- Get used to it before you attempt to learn full Inversions – (SEE BELOW INVERSION SAFETY!)
- The hammock can hold your weight, even if you lean fully into it … But make sure it is fitted correctly onto the ceiling beams!
Please keep in mind it isn’t suitable for everyone at every stage of life, particularly if you’ve never done any Yoga whatsoever.
Through inversion, spinal decompression can be achieved by elongating the spine thus reducing the pressure to vertebral discs and spinal nerves. Inversion Therapy is particularly beneficial to those suffering from chronic back pain.
Start with partial inversions low to the floor. Time in inversions should be short i.e. 20-30 seconds and gradually increased over time. In all instances, both for beginners and experienced practitioners, inversion must be ceased in the event of feeling dizzy, nauseous or faint. These symptoms more commonly occur in beginners and with practice will normally pass.
Always keep in mind that if you experience extreme pain or if you always experience pain while inverting, you should discontinue inversion until you have had a chance to discuss this with your doctor.
To invert safely and securely so as not to ‘slip’ out of the swing, placement of the swing’s fabric in relation to the back and legs is of vital importance.
Safety – Frequently Asked Questions
1. I’m feeling some aching in my back when I return upright from inverting. Is this normal?
There could be several causes for this..
You did too much too soon: If you are new to inversion, your body is not used to being inverted (chances are you haven’t hung upside down since 2nd grade!) By inverting too much too soon you are probably going to be a little sore. You can liken inversion to beginning any new exercise program. If you over-do it on the first day you will probably pay for it later!
You returned upright too fast: When inverted, your vertebrae have a chance to separate and the discs can decompress. This action reduces pressure on the nerves that run through your spinal column. When you ascend (return upright) on the swing, your spine “re-compresses” which means that the vertebrae return to their normal position and the pressure on the discs increases again.
Precautions for inverting
- Detached Retina/Glaucoma
- High Blood Pressure
- Low Blood Pressure
- Heart Problems
- If in doubt check with your Doctor for any Medical Conditions you are unsure of
For those new to inversion it is important to learn and practice gradually.
If you come up from inversion too fast you might place sudden pressure on the nerves that run through the spine which can cause some pain. Instead, you should invert to a mild angle (4 – 6 inches ) for several minutes.
2. To what degree should I invert?
Beginners should start at a mild angle (the swing height will be approximately 4 – 6 inches from the floor with your butt in the saddle) for the first few minutes.
Then try inverting the body at 30 – 45 degrees: Approximate height of the swing is 8 – 10 inches At this angle, your body begins to experience mild stretching to your muscles and joints, while benefiting from the stimulated circulation, improved oxygen flow to the head and repositioning of internal organs. This is the angle to which the average person experiences virtually all the benefits of inversion. Your spine receives the amount of traction it needs to completely decompress (once you are relaxed).
(18 – 24 inches). This is the required height for this classic shoulder stand, where shoulder and neck are comfortably on the floor and all the weight and traction is held by swing.
180 degrees (full inversion):
In full inversion, your body hangs freely to be able to perform inverted exercises and stretching and your head is free from the floor.
you never really need to go to full inversion if you are not comfortable with it, Sarvangasana is usually enough. You may need to alternate between inverting and resting with your hands on the foam grips until you are used to the feeling of prolonged inversion. You may also want to hang for short periods of time to begin until you become more comfortable.
Athletes, Yoga practitioners, etc, are one group that may enjoy the extra traction from full inversion. Strong muscles and ligaments need higher loads to decompress.
Intermittent traction / Oscillation Intermittent traction (alternating 20 – 30 seconds inversion with returning upright) or oscillation ( rhythmic rocking back and forth) are actually the “preferred” methods of inversion recommended by many doctors for stimulating circulation and waste removal in and around discs.
Virtually all issues of discomfort that occur with new invertees is due to going too far, too fast. You are wonderfully designed to be upside down, just listen to your body, increasing your angle of inversion only as you feel comfortable.
3. Does inversion cause strokes / popped blood vessels?
A medical study published in 1983 by Dr. Goldman and colleagues showed that inverted patients experienced an increase in blood pressure and internal eye pressure. The media widely reported the study, warning that stroke was a potential result of inversion.
Two years following the inversion study, Dr. Goldman reversed his original position stating, “New research shows that you are at no more of a stroke risk hanging upside down than if you are exercising right side-up.” More in-depth research found that the body actually has mechanisms that prevent damage from hanging upside down. In fact, while oscillating (inverting with movement), some of the patients’ blood pressure actually dropped a few points. (*Note: these studies were based on patients generally in good health. Make sure you review your own ability prior to inverting ).
Dr. Goldman stated that the warnings to the public about the dangers of inversion were “grossly inflated” and that “in the 15 years these devices for inversion have been in use, there has not been one single stroke case reported, nor any serious injuries.” (This statement, to the best of our knowledge, is as true today as when Dr. Goldman made it 17 years ago ).
Other universities, including Marquette, Iowa and Portland studied inversion during this time with results that also helped to vindicate Inversion and promote it as a healthy physical activity.
4. Why do I feel so much pressure in my head – is it normal to turn red?
This is very normal and is actually good for you. It indicates increased blood flow to the brain, eyes, skin and hair. One preliminary study showed that the brain runs 7% faster and 14% more accurately while inverted! The feeling of pressure usually lessens over time as you become accustomed to inverting.
If you are a beginner and are uncomfortable with this feeling, it is OK to come up and rest a while. This is referred to as “intermittent” traction (alternating inversion with being upright ) and is a good way to help becoming accustomed to the inverted world. You can also try “oscillation” which is a rhythmic rocking back and forth.
5. How do I focus on the lower back / upper back / neck region?
Inversion is a natural form of gravity-assisted traction. This means that the amount of traction applied to various locations of the body is exactly the right amount! Every vertebra and related disc is just the right size to support the weight above it. The large discs in the lower back are the right size to support the 60% body weight that is above them. The small discs in the neck are just the right size to support the weight of the head. When inverted, the weight normally supported is just the right weight to apply traction.
Gentle stretching and exercise is beneficial to help decompress and mobilize the spine:
You may perform gentle stretching exercises to help move the muscles and connective tissues in the lower back area. In partial inversion, try rotating the knees gently from side-to-side or slowly rocking your pelvis forward and backward.
If you have worked up to full inversion, abdominal exercises (sit-ups, crunches) can be beneficial to the lower back since strong abdominal muscles are the key for proper posture. You can try a gentle back extension by placing your hands behind your head on the floor and pushing your body in an arch away from the floor. This is reverse extension and scorpion.
Many people experience upper back pain as result of stress and muscle tension. The key to relieving this pain is to totally relax while inverting. Try deep breathing exercises. Also, partner work can be beneficial. Nothing is more relaxing than an inverted back and shoulder massage!
Movement is also very beneficial. Try rounding your shoulders forward and pushing them back. Also, stretch one arm at a time across your torso to extend those upper back muscles.
Again, movement can be beneficial. Try rotating your head from one side to the other. Partner massages to the base of the head and back of the neck are very relaxing (do not apply pressure to the front of the neck). You can also add gentle inverted traction to your neck by resting your arms behind your head at the base of your skull (don’t pull, just add the weight of your arms).
6. What exercise do you recommend while inverted?
Gentle stretching can be performed while partially inverted by crossing one arm over your body and rolling onto your deltoid and letting the side of the face touch floor. You can also arch the torso from side to side to loosen muscles and to help the mid and lower spine to stretch.
Similarly, stress in the neck can be relieved by gently rotating the head to either side, plus lifting the shoulders off the floor for a stretch in extension by reaching up and grasping the handles.
Only perform these exercises when you are comfortable with being fully inverted. Do not overdue it as, with any exercise to which your body is unaccustomed, you may experience sore muscles if you do too much too fast.
Place your hands on your chest or behind your head and lift your torso half way to your knee.
This is the only way to perform a full sit-up that is safe for your back. Your spine is in line with gravity so the full sit-up does not place harmful loads on the back. Place your hands behind your head or on your chest. Sit up all the way to your knees. You may need to place your hands on the handles to ‘cheat’ to help pull yourself up the last couple of inches. On the way down, let your entire body weight be held by your abdominals. Some people claim that one full inverted sit-up is as difficult as 10 regular sit-ups (without the strain on your back! )
Inverted abductor (inside of knees and thighs):
On the swing you are able to exercise your legs as well! Bring your knees and ankles together as close as you can. Hold on the exhale for 5 seconds. This action is similar to a standing squat, except that you are utilizing your inside leg muscles to strengthen your abductors using your body weight. For resistance, repeat 10 – 20 times.
THE MOST IMPORTANT THING TO REMEMBER IS NOT TO OVERDUE IT. INVERSION IS NOT A “NO PAIN, NO GAIN” SITUATION. AS SOON AS YOU FEEL LIKE YOU HAVE HAD ENOUGH, STOP! THE STRETCHING OF MUSCLES, LIGAMENTS, TENDONS, NERVES ETC. IS MUCH STRONGER THAN YOU REALIZE WHEN YOU ARE DOING IT IN THE SWING. YOU MAY NOT REALIZE YOU OVER STRETCHED UNTIL THE NEXT MORNING.
7. How long should I invert?
This is probably the most commonly asked question regarding inversion. The answer really varies with different people. For the most part, we recommend beginners to start slowly, just hang with very little movement: it is very easy to pull a muscle or nerve in the back when you start doing physical exercise so for first timers start slowly. Once you reach 45 degrees you are at a point that is stronger traction than you would achieve in a hospital. The angle of inversion also affects the length of inversion time that is comfortable. The shallower the angle the longer the time. Most people will invert for 10 – 20 minutes once or twice a day. There is no real time limit. The important thing is to listen to your body and under do it rather than over do it. If you are at all uncomfortable, simply return upright slowly, resting when upright with eyes closed.
Virtually all issues of discomfort that occur with new invertees are due to going too far, too fast. You are wonderfully designed to be upside down, but if you are like most people, the last time you hung upside down you were a little kid. Just ease into inversion gradually. Increase the height or swing only as you feel comfortable.
8. Is the inverting detrimental if you have heart disease or high blood pressure?
It is true that people should not invert if they have uncontrolled high blood pressure. However, inversion can cause a state of relaxation that results in a drop in heart rate and blood pressure (sometimes even lower than a resting state). Some doctors have used inversion as a treatment for high blood pressure.
9. Will inversion therapy help with a bulged disc?
When inverted, the natural pull of gravity allows a separation of your vertebrae which lessens the pressure on the discs in between each vertebrae. The action of increasing the space margins between the vertebrae can actually create a mild suction in the disc which may help encourage the bulged disc return to its proper place.
The main benefits are realized by increased circulation and waste elimination to injured discs. In the opinion of many medical professionals, several sessions of intermittent traction are the best way to help the body dissolve a bulged disc.
The length of healing time will vary with different people. However, it has been our experience that you should hang three or more times every day for short sessions at an angle most comfortable for you. Do not over do it. This IS NOT a “no pain, no gain” situation.
10. Will inversion help with headaches or migraines?
Some people have found that inverting on a regular basic can actually help reduce the frequency of migraine occurrences, however, we do not have any medical studies to specifically support this claim. I would advise not to invert if you are in the middle of experiencing a migraine as it could potentially worsen your headache.
11. Will inversion therapy help with draining blood from the lower limbs?
When inverted you are helping your heart move venous blood from your legs and torso to the heart and lungs to be purified. Inversion also helps to move fresh, oxygen rich blood from your heart and lungs to your upper body and brain.
When a muscle contracts, this squeezes capillaries and slows removal of wastes from the muscle. Sustained muscle constraint due to stress or cramping causes wastes to accumulate in the tissue and this produces pain. What inversion does for muscles is two-fold: first, it stretches and relaxes them; second, gravity helps the lymph system to clear out the pain producing toxins trapped in the tensed muscles.
By stimulating circulation, inversion has been known to relieve varicose veins. Varicose veins are caused when blood pools in the veins due to weakened one-way valves. The downward pull of gravity causes blood to slip back and, over time, the vein will distend and become painful. When inverting, the pressure is relieved and the heart is able to clear the blood from the lower body.
12. If someone has a fused vertebrae, is it safe for them to invert?
There are many types of fusion surgeries. Some post fusion patients are helped by inversion. Any fusion patient should consult with their doctor before inverting.
13. Can inversion help children with scoliosis? Does age matter?
Our medical advisor prefers to get patients involved with inversion as early as possible. Using inversion to help slow or reverse the effects of scoliosis is helpful at any age, but especially before the bones fully harden at ages 12 – 14.
There are many causes of scoliosis. Some causes may be problematic for inversion (bone infection, cancer, compression fracture). Most scoliosis in children is related to bone anomalies or calcification disorders, both of which do well with inversion. Of course, if you have any doubt, you should always consult with a chiropractor.