Why Hanging Upside Down Is Good for You
Most actions we engage in focus downwards, towards the front of the body, using mostly the hands and the eyes. We very rarely reach high up, or bend backwards. Constant imbalanced movements and long-held damaging positions require the back, shoulder, and neck muscles to do overtime—to cramp up. That hurts. Something needs to happen to redress the imbalance. So, what is the solution?
Gentle, whole-body traction and bending backwards in an upside-down position provides the necessary counter moves to loosen, relax, and stretch those overworked and painful muscles in order to completely realign the skeleton. But before we go and hang upside down, watch the next video to learn how to relax properly on the floor to become familiar with the concept of giving into gravity.
Relaxing on the Floor with a Passive Stretch
The first step to straighten a crooked, painful spine is learning how to be comfortable lying flat on the floor on your back (not on a bed) to allow the body to stretch itself out in a completely passive state. Follow the indications on the picture below to enable you to fully relax. If your neck or middle of the back areas are uncomfortable, use props in the form of cushions, bolsters or bits of pool tubes rolled up in a towel to support any over-curvature (painful spots) in the spine. This stretch is effortless. While breathing properly, simply allow gravity to do the work for you. So how do we breathe properly?
Breathe the Pain Away
The second thing is to learn how to breathe properly to boost blood circulation towards dormant parts of the body while relaxing. Remember, you are breathing in (hopefully) clean, fresh air and breathing out toxins. That is why the out-breaths should always be longer and deeper than the in-breaths. Just follows these simple guidelines:
Once you are comfortably relaxed, lying on the floor, with or without supports according to your personal needs, close the eyes.
- breathe in through the nose or 4 counts
- hold for 6 (this allows the good oxygen to spread all around the body)
- breathe out for 8 through the mouth. Any soreness you feel in your lower back, neck or shoulders, will diminish on each slow out-breath whereby you allow the body to relax further and sink deeper into the floor. In practice, we say: “Breathe the pain away”. If it is too sensitive, slowly roll sideways off the mat, get up and move. Later you can rearrange your position with appropriate supports and try again.
For How Long?
How long you stay in the above passive stretch is entirely up to you. It could be only a few minutes the first time round, or it could be an hour-long siesta. Stay there for as long as you are comfortable. So far so good—you are now acquainted with the benefits of gravity. But before you are ready to try hanging upside down, look at a very important side issue: how sitting on chairs can seriously damage the body.
Beware of the Chair
Learning to relax on the floor is good preparation for hanging upside down, the jewel of body healing practice. But why does a body get so stiff and painful in the first place? The underlying cause of all stiffness in the hamstrings, pain in the neck, shoulders, back ache and damaged disks, is the harm we incur from prolonged sitting on chairs. The next video "Are You Chair Shaped" explains how sitting on chairs all day can seriously damage your health, almost to the point where chairs should carry a government health warning:
"Prolonged sitting on chairs causes stiffness in the joints and chronic pain."
If you Must Sit on Chairs All Day...
Of course, no amount of happy relaxing on the floor will provide any permanent cure unless you improve your posture and modify your seating position.
If you have to spend hours on end sitting on a chair, at least make sure to use appropriate support placed behind the sore back to avoid vertebrae getting pushed out of place by poor sitting habits.
Degree of Stiffness in the Hamstrings
Hanging Upside Down
Kids love it, adults need it. The ultimate solution that will soon put all those vertebrae back into place, cure stiffness, and prevent all back pain, stiff neck, and shoulder problems, is hanging upside down on a gravity inversion table. Regular use of this tool is a must for anyone who is sitting all day—and that is the majority of us.
How Does it Work?
A gravity inversion table allows the constant downward pushing force of gravity to work to the body's advantage for a change. If your body was stiff like a pencil balancing horizontally on your finger, the point of pivot would be the pelvis. Just like lying on an old fashioned vegetable scale, your body is balanced around its center of gravity (the pelvis) as its axis. A gravity inversion table is as sensitive as an old fashioned scale. The degree of incline is controlled by very subtle up or down arm movements. Lift the arms fully overhead to gradually go deeper, eventually to the full upside down position.
The next video shows an advanced routine on a gravity inversion table. Beginners can perform partial inversion as shown at the very beginning and the very end of the video.
Get Rid of Pain - Hang Upside Down
Benefits of Hanging Upside Down
- Decompresses and realigns the vertebrae
- Maintains your height
- Improves posture
- Adds to flexibility
- Strengthens abdomen
- Relieves stress
- Relaxes tensed muscles
- Improves circulation
- Heightens mental awareness
- Improves productivity
- Improves your mood
- Combats depression
- Makes you need less sleep
- Prevents "shrinking" in old age
Prevent Shrinking in Old Age
They say that people get shorter as they grow older. What really happens over time is that the spinal and cervical curves get deeper and deeper. A bit like an accordion, the apparent "shrinkage" is merely a gradual folding of the skeleton. This can easily be prevented by regular traction opposing gravity: hanging upside down.
Mental and Brain Health
Because the blood supply to the brain is being boosted, hanging upside down improves brain function and also works psychologically. Regular gravity inversion makes you more productive. It allows you to work longer hours with better concentration.
A short "hang" can help resolve psychological and mood problems. For example, I put a very angry and upset client of mine who was going through a bitter divorce on the gravity inverter for five minutes. When he got up again, he was literally elevated. He smiled to me and said: "Oh well, I guess it takes two to tango." With renewed energy and a more positive attitude, problems are easier to face and to resolve.
Some of you believe that it's bad for you to get a red face with blood flowing into your head. On the contrary; more blood supply and oxygen to the brain is, up to a point, a good thing. Go slowly and not all the way down at first. If you get a head rush, slowly come back up until you can control the degree of inversion that you are comfortable with.
How long and how often?
Five or ten minutes, 3 times a week, or whenever you feel tired, sad, angry, upset, or depressed.
Advanced Gravity Inversion
Ever Heard of Gravity Inversion?
Which Gravity Inversion Table to Chose?
After decades of using a Teeter Hang Ups gravity inversion table, I moved to Spain in 2001. Rather than carrying the thing on the plane, I decided to leave it in London with my son and his family who enjoy using it as much as I do.
The plan was to simply purchase a new Teeter inversion table once I had settled in. Of course the technology had somewhat advanced by then. I was happy to discover that the current Teeter Hang Ups 970 LTD inverter was wider than the previous one. That meant I could perform more moves on it without knocking my elbows on its sides as with the previous version. Great news!
Whether you want to improve your posture, reduce back pain, or simply minimize stress, I recommend the Teeter Hang Ups EP-950 Gravity Inversion Table. As explained in this article, it elongates the spine, increases the space between the vertebrae, and relieves the pressure on discs, ligaments, and nerve roots. Less pressure means less back pain, as well as fewer headaches and neck problems. I have been using this particular model for many years now and it still works as good as new. When friends come over to try it out, it can easily take the weight of larger people. So what are you waiting for? Get one for the price of 2 trips to an osteopath!
Hang Upside Down on an Aerial Yoga Swing
Then, if you want to go further and be sure to stay in great shape, you can get a yoga swing to perform playful acrobatics in mid-air to your heart's content. While the gravity inversion table is designed to gently lengthen and straighten out the spine, it is only a beginning towards ultimate health in the skeleton. On an aerial yoga swing, you can perform additional positions and movements that are much more varied than those on the gravity inversion table. On an aerial yoga swing, you can safely move your body like a child or a young monkey in the jungle. The pleasure you get from a yoga swing is very much like moving when you were a child but with more awareness as demonstrated in the next video.