Inversion therapy is when you are totally upside down — or at an angle comfortable for you — so that pressure is released from your spine and there is more space between the vertebrae. While there is no hard scientific data to back it up, inversion proponents say the anti-gravitational effect relieves lower back pain, neck pain and a variety of other problems, such as stress, circulation, posture and even depression.
If you’re not interested in getting looped on painkillers, inversion therapy may be the answer for you. However, it is important that you see your doctor before dangling upside down, as it is not safe for everyone. The Mayo Clinic states that inversion is risky for anyone with high blood pressure, heart disease or glaucoma, as well as anyone who is pregnant or obese.
Popular ways to invert include using an inversion table or chair, gravity boots or practicing certain yoga poses (if you’re fit enough).
Inversion tables allow you to gently lean back into a comfortable angle using your arms to guide you. With your feet secured by ankle pads, release the safety pin and slowly lay back to the desired position. Expert inverters use their tables to perform ab workouts like sit-ups and crunches, and even use dumbbells upside down. Obviously, if you’re a newbie, do not try this at home.
Inversion chairs are similar to the tables, but you are inverting in a seated position.
According to the Yoga Journal, if you are new to yoga, take your time before inverting and work closely with a knowledgeable teacher. “Find the extension of the spine first in Adho Mukha Svanasana (downward-facing dog); open the shoulders with Adho Mukha Vrksasana (handstand), Pincha Mayurasana (forearm balance) and Vasisthasana (side plank pose); and develop balance, clarity and strength with the standing poses.” Once you get the “hang” of those moves, check out these more advanced inverted poses, or try anti-gravity yoga, in which you are supported by a silky hammock.
Gravity boots are for people who are fit and can lift themselves up to attach and detach themselves from the boots, which are either fastened to the ceiling or to a rack.