My yoga mentor often says to her students, “Inversions make you happy” and “backbends are enlivening.” If both of those things are true, does that mean vrischikasana, or scorpion pose, is the ultimate, energy-giving, smile-inducing pose of them all?
An inversion is any pose that puts your heart higher than your head – so this includes down dog. Scientific research has proven inversions to be beneficial to the cardiovascular, nervous, lymphatic, and endocrine systems. Being upside down causes an increase in blood flow to the head, improving brain speed and function. You may notice yourself to be thinking clearer once you slide out of an inversion. According to an article in Be Well Buzz, the blood circulation that is improved by inversions releases neurotransmitters, which balances the hormones, making a person feel light hearted and more happy than usual.
While sometimes uncomfortable, backbends are stimulating and invigorating in a way that caffeine just can’t compare. Sometimes my nighttime yoga practice keeps me up at night because these backbends get me so pumped up. Backbends keep the spine young, open up the chest and lungs, and allow the practitioner to take in more air with each breath. More breath means more energy. BKS Iyengar recommended backbends as a natural remedy for pain and depression.
So when you are feeling down in the dumps or you just had a big fight with a friend or significant other, maybe try to throw some backbends, inversions, or (double whammy) scorpions into your day. You’ll be surprised at how greatly your mood improves.
If increased happiness alone isn’t enough reason for you to give scorpion a go, here are a few more:
- It challenges your balance. Getting into scorpion, whether through pincha mayurasana (forearm stand) or sirsasana (headstand), is a challenge in balance. All of these balancing postures work your core. Scorpion is an extra challenging balance because you have to shift once upside down, moving your feet closer to your head while moving your head up towards your feet.
- It gets you in tune with your body. Finding that point where you reach equilibrium upside down takes practice. You learn how far to push your seat back, where your shoulders need to sit in their sockets, how tight to squeeze your inner thighs and toes, etc. Every person’s body is different; likewise, every person’s balance points are slightly different. If you carry more weight around your seat, you may need to push it back more to be able to straight leg into headstand. Once you begin to find those points of peace where you just seem to hover, you feel a natural sense of self-understanding.
- It makes you feel strong. You can’t tell me that you don’t feel like a warrior princess after holding scorpion without a wall. Being able to get into scorpion was a huge boost in my yoga self esteem. When I’m up there, I feel strong, capable, beautiful, thankful, and peaceful. It makes me feel blessed to have a body that is capable of doing such amazing things.
Now, scorpions are not a beginner pose. It has a few prerequisites: bridge, wheel, and forearm balance. Try working on all of those until you feel comfortable and then move to the wall to start trying scorpion. Kick your feet up against the wall into forearm balance and then take one foot, sliding down the wall, at a time. If that’s comfortable, slide both feet down the wall so that you are in the scorpion against the wall. Gradually, you will be able to pull yourself off the wall and then one day, you will kick up into scorpion from the middle of the room. You’ve got this.
**Remember that both inversions and (especially) backbends require a warm up. It’s best to do 30 minutes of stretching or yoga before you try to get into scorpion pose. Then you will want to spend some time doing counter stretches afterwards to release that back action you just did. Try child pose and/or happy baby.
-------This article was published in Elephant Journal. Read their version here. ---------