The Magic of Inversions for Your Spine

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Aerial Educate Series: The Magic of Inversions for Your Spine


By Lead Aerial Yoga Teacher Trainer, Renae Stevens

In the Aerial Educate Series, Renae explores the amazing key benefits of the use of the Aerial Hammock and its ability to be used in a remedial and therapeutic capacity. In this series, Renae explores the magic of the aerial inversion for spine health.

The spine has more movements then most people think…

I think of the spine as the most magnificent piece of architecture in the human body. However, it was not until I injured my spine that I really took time to appreciate it! When sharing with students the incredible role our spine plays in our lives, I often ask them…

“So what movements can the spine make…?”

The most common responses I get are:

• Forward bend
• Backward bend
• Side bend
• Rotation

Common Spinal Movements

What has been forgotten?

Yes! Your spine is also designed to produce the movements of compression and decompression!

But the spine also compresses and decompresses

Modern Life Has Caused Increased spinal compression

Unfortunately, in modern life ‘compression’ is the movement direction our spine has become most accustomed to. In the compressed state, all other movement directions are limited and increased stress is placed on our intervertebral discs and joints. With more and more extended periods of time in compressive postures, such as sitting, we are also impacting the constipation of our organs and creating dysfunctional breathing patterns. In Australia, lower back pain is the most common musculoskeletal condition. It is estimated that 70–90% of people will suffer some form of low back pain during their lives.

When there is sufficient lumbar stabilisation present, applying decompressive exercises such as inversions using the aerial yoga hammock can be very effective in reducing the stress on the spinal structures and has been shown to alleviate lower back pain.

Our ancestors used to swing and hang…

Some researchers have pondered why our close ape ancestors do not get the same back problems as humans. One thing they know is that our evolutionary ancestors tend to do much less gravity resisted movement such as walking, running and sitting and much more swinging and hanging. Is it time to investigate if life is better upside down?

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Watch: The Magic of Inversions Educate Video


So What’s happening to the joints when we decompress through inversions?

Spinal Decompression

Under traction magical things happen to our discs in our vertebra

Have you ever wondered what is happening for your spinal joints when your upside-down? When we experience a full inversion or a ‘flexion-distraction’ technique in a semi-inversion, such as in front-belt, we are placing our spinal joints under traction. In this situation, the joint-space between our vertebra might increase resulting in the intervertebral disc height increasing as internal pressure is alleviated. This may decrease pain associated with compression as irritation to the pain-sensitive fibres around the annulus fibrosus, and the force of gravity on the nucleus pulposus at the centre of the disc is reduced. We might also experience a relaxation of contraction in musculoskeletal tissues allowing for optimal biomechanical function in spinal mobility. If you have an existing disc pathology please check with your health professional if traction in inversion is a safe practice for your condition before attempting these exercises.

Inversions Also Decompress Your Organs…

Decompress your organs

Inversions can give our organs spaciousness and alleviate the pressure of gravity

It is good to remember that when you move your body, it is not just the outside that is moved, but the inside as well! We are as unique on the inside as we are on the outside, and although our organs are located in similar places, our organs can be slightly different shapes and sizes. The unique design of our bones, joints and organs all contribute to our individual ways of moving.

When we take different postural positions our skeletal structure moves and manipulates the internal pressure our organs experience. Some postures affect the circulation of blood creating regions of high and low blood pressure. Think of a water balloon that you can squish on one side and cause an increase of pressure on the other.

When we invert the torso we can offer an experience for our organs that allows them spaciousness as they are alleviated from the pressure of gravity. Changing positions regularly improves our circulation, congestion and the overall healthy function of our organs. Next time you are inverting from a hammock notice if you can sense that along with your joints you may also experience a decompression of your organs?

Best way to start aerial yoga.

Plus Inversions have these Other Great benefits…

✔️ Neuroplasticity – Inversions and its use in Aerial Yoga Therapeutics support the formation of new neural networks. Neuroplasticity is the ability of the brain to form new connections and pathways and change how its circuits are wired.

✔️ Stress Reduction – Inversions and its use in Aerial Yoga Therapeutics support parasympathetic nervous system functioning – the function of the body that controls bodily functions when a person is at rest – including it’s ability to induce a relaxation response.

✔️ Trauma Recovery – Inversions and their ability to coordinate upper and lower limb movement can counteract dissociative “freeze response” symptoms of PTSD through limbic system regulation. The limbic system is the part of the brain involved in our behavioural and emotional responses.

✔️ Injury Prevention & Recovery – Inversions support the circulatory, endocrine, vestibular and musculoskeletal systems – with it’s ability to facilitate joint mobility and nerve lengthening, increase circulation without increasing heart rate, relieving organ prolapse and achieving gravity-assisted flexibility and gravity-resisted strengthening.

The Benefits of Different Inversions and their Uses

Types of Inversions

Semi-Inversions vs Full-inversions

A Semi-Inversion has the Mechanical Advantage of the flexion-distraction technique

Postures from a front-belt position are performed with up to 90 degrees of hip flexion and are described as a ‘semi-inversion’ due to the fact that the legs are not vertically positioned above the pelvis as in the execution of a ‘full-inversion’. The mechanical advantage of this flexion-distraction technique is that it can significantly enhance the elongation of the lordotic lumbar curve in comparison to the full-inversion and can simultaneously apply distraction to the hip joint. Most people will find entering and exiting from a front-belt semi-inversion more accessible than a full-inversion and experience less blood pressure in the head than compared to the full inversion.

A Full-Inversion can Enhance Spinal Movement & Exploration

The full-inversion is executed from a back-belt or booty-pouch support around the pelvis. One of the advantages of inversions that utilise support around the pelvis is that the effect of traction is focused on the spine and upper limb, and tensioning on the hip or lower limb joints can be avoided. In this position spinal mobility is enhanced and spinal movement can be explored in 3-dimensional space with gravity-resisted positions for conditioning the spinal and abdominal musculature. Single leg movements are also possible in this position which can give a gravity-assisted lengthening to the musculature of the hip and leg such as in exercises like ‘Chandelier’.

A full inversion can also be performed in shoulder-wrapped cradle position in exercises such as the ‘flying shoulder-stand’ where the support is placed approximately below the C7. The benefits of this type of inversion is ability to achieve specific cervical traction. It is also a great way to condition body alignment and balance in an inverted position.

How can the use of Inversions complement other Fitness or Remedial Modalities?

The use of inversions to complement other fitness or remedial modalities

Most Ground Based exercises are performed under compression

Most forms of ground based exercise are executed in upright positions and under the normal forces of gravity and compression that are present in our other daily activities. Often we only experience decompression when we sleep or with the aid of our chiropractor or physiotherapist who can apply manual tension and traction on our joints. Inversion can be used regularly to release the pressures of exercise, sport training and daily life stresses providing a ‘zero gravity’ experience that enhances recovery.

The Inversion can be a ‘re-set’ opportunity combating compressive forces

In many sports and physical art forms we use repetitive actions that can cause increased compressive force, wear and tear on our joints and may lead to an over dominance in certain muscles. When the brain has become proficient at one way of moving, it becomes the path of least resistance and is therefore used as our strategy in multiple different actions. Until the inevitable point where some form of pain presentation or dysfunction occurs. By placing the brain and body in an unfamiliar environment such as an inversion, we get a ‘re-set’ opportunity. In this new situation, the brain needs to be more inventive with its movement strategies. This provides an optimal opportunity to re-educate inefficient movement habits, expand our movement capacity and invite a holistic use of the body.

Practicing Inversions can complement other remedial modalities

Practicing inversions with a therapeutic aerial yoga approach can complement other remedial modalities by providing the client access to a modality that is low cost, accessible at-home, and potentially approved for funding by NDIS and Enhanced Primary Care Program and for people with chronic conditions, injuries or ailments with the benefits of a Medicare Rebate.

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About Renae Stevens & Aerial Yoga Teacher Training


Renae Stevens, founder of CreativeBodyFlow, has been a pioneer in bringing aerial yoga hammock education to Australia and New Zealand. Over the last 10 years Renae has had the opportunity to work with clients in the hammock in both clinical settings, fitness centres and yoga studios, and found there are outstandingly positive outcomes when the knowledge from mental health, physical rehabilitation and fitness are integrated.

Renae is lead Teacher Trainer of CreativeBodyFlow’s Aerial Yoga Teacher Training, with courses coming soon both virtually (live-streamed) and live at Bend + Fly.

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