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Why Hanging Upside Down (Gravity Inversion) Is Good for You

Juliette Kando is a dancer, choreologist, author on fitness and health, and Fellow of the Benesh Institute at the Royal Academy of Dance.

The ultimate counter move to all damaging movement behavior.

The ultimate counter move to all damaging movement behavior.

Most actions we engage use the hands and the eyes making us focus primarily downwards, towards the front of the body. We very rarely reach high up or bend backward. Constant imbalanced movements and long-held damaging forward head posture 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 backward in an upside-down position provide 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 in to 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 in 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?

How to be comfortable when relaxing on the floor.

How to be comfortable when relaxing on the floor.

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 your 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 around, 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, backache, 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.

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Read More From Youmemindbody

Use back support to slouch or to keep the spine straight.

Use back support to slouch or to keep the spine straight.

Degree of Stiffness in the Hamstrings

The angle determines the degree of stiffness in the hamstrings.

The angle determines the 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.

Hanging Upside Down. Kids love it, adults need it.

Hanging Upside Down. Kids love it, adults need it.

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

  1. Decompresses and realigns the vertebrae
  2. Maintains your height
  3. Improves posture
  4. Adds to flexibility
  5. Strengthens abdomen
  6. Relieves stress
  7. Relaxes tensed muscles
  8. Improves circulation
  9. Heightens mental awareness
  10. Improves productivity
  11. Improves your mood
  12. Combats depression
  13. Makes you need less sleep
  14. Prevents "shrinking" in old age

Prevent Shrinking in Old Age

We don't actually shrink with age. Gravity merely folds us downwards, like an accordion.

We don't actually shrink with age. Gravity merely folds us downwards, like an accordion.

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.

Caution

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

Sorry it's out of focus. Get a sixpack in no time by doing upside down sit-ups.

Sorry it's out of focus. Get a sixpack in no time by doing upside down sit-ups.

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!

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.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and does not substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, and/or dietary advice from a licensed health professional. Drugs, supplements, and natural remedies may have dangerous side effects. If pregnant or nursing, consult with a qualified provider on an individual basis. Seek immediate help if you are experiencing a medical emergency.

Comments

Bill on September 18, 2017:

I've been inverting to 90 degrees for an hour just about every day for four years. I started it mainly to straighten my spine (without have to pay a chiropractor). My back has been better. But the real surprise is that my sore knees -- from more than 40 years as a runner -- have improved dramatically. There is nothing else I can think of than can account for the improvement; it's quite remarkable. I run 25 to 30 miles a week, and, right now, it looks like I can keep doing that indefinitely.

Juliette Kando FI Chor (author) from Andalusia on April 22, 2017:

Hello Kristine,

How nice that you found me, and thank you for the kind words. At the top of this page, below my name is a red link: "contact author". Yes, it would be nice to catch up after all these years.

Kristinekelliher14@icloud.com on April 22, 2017:

I am over the moon to have found Juliette Kando again! I did classes in London when I was pregnant with my 1st baby Hannah now 23yrs! Juliette is amazing woman teacher and a source of info i have never found again. I ex love her to contact or if there are links I cd contact her? She had designed an amazing chair which I regret I never bought , wondering if still available? Great to see inversion table as it really works! Juliette Kando had big influence on my life . If by chance Kando sees this ,. I would love to hear you

Juliette Kando FI Chor (author) from Andalusia on February 04, 2015:

You may be right there Peach, or just relax at a very small angle of backward tilt.

peachy from Home Sweet Home on February 04, 2015:

if you have high blood pressure and diabetic, better don't learn from the panda

Neetu M from USA on October 05, 2014:

Sue, indeed that is what I do! Still, I have such a fidgety personality (constantly moving without much purpose even) that being still is a challenge for me. The only thing I can do for hours without moving is writing because then I am in my element! :) But I do my inversion religiously simply because if I don't, I will suffer from the horrible pain of sciatica sooner or later. Got to pick and choose, right? :)

Juliette Kando FI Chor (author) from Andalusia on October 04, 2014:

Hi WordswithLove,

If you get bored, why don't you put some slow music on, close your eyes, and do some meditation, or gentle exercises to fully enjoy the sensation of hanging upside down. It's all to do with "living in the present moment". You can also concentrate on the subtle changes going on in your body while gravity is inverted.

Neetu M from USA on October 03, 2014:

Hanging upside down is a great idea! I do it everyday to keep my herniated disc from acting up. I discovered the inversion table a few years ago when I had dreadful sciatic pain. It was dreadful doing it when the pain was bad, but if I do it regularly at least a few times a week, it helps prevent the worst attacks. The only problem is I get bored hanging upside down!

Juliette Kando FI Chor (author) from Andalusia on September 05, 2014:

Be careful of what? Sure, take it slowly, do not go completely upside down at the first go. Listen to your body.

Rebecca Be from Lincoln, Nebraska on September 05, 2014:

Great stuff. I was talking to my husband about doing this. He does yoga daily and I told him even when he stands on his head it is not the same as inversion. I have heard of people using iron boards if they don't have a table. Be careful though even with an inversion table.

Dr.S.P.PADMA PRASAD from Tumkur on September 05, 2014:

A useful hub. So much pain is taken and homework is done in preparing this hub. Pictures are suitable. All essential points are covered. sub-tittles are proper. Congrats to you

Rebecca Be from Lincoln, Nebraska on August 21, 2014:

Great article…it all makes sense.

Juliette Kando FI Chor (author) from Andalusia on July 10, 2014:

That's exactly the right way of going about it Peggy. Do you have a Gravity Inversion Table then?

Peggy Woods from Houston, Texas on July 10, 2014:

I saw this on G+ and came over to read it. Sounds good! I think I will start slowly and perhaps work up to more gradually. Will also share.

Juliette Kando FI Chor (author) from Andalusia on March 14, 2013:

That could only happen if you forgot to tie your feet in and suddenly swung all the way upside down which is impossible because at the beginning, you use a safety strap which prevents the gravity inversion table from tipping too far back. But you do need an experienced friend or instructor to get you started. Mind you, I never had help, just read the instructions and carefully experimented until I became familiar with the equipment.