The Healing Power of Yoga Inversion Therapy

Updated: Nov 22, 2021

Giving new meaning to the phrase ‘hanging about’, Inversion Therapy is a form of yoga therapy said to cure everything from heart murmurs, to back pain, migraine and depression. Words by Tamara Pitelen.

Can the simple act of inverting our bodies and hanging upside down cure everything from heart murmurs to depression? It sounds too good to be true but according to Inversion Therapist and Yoga Teacher Paul Terrell it really is that simple and that effective, which is why he specialises in inverting clients in his one-on-one yoga therapy sessions.

“One of the great things about Hatha yoga is that we can use it as a first aid kit to cure ourselves,” Terrell says. “Really cure ourselves, not just take away symptoms. For example, going upside down is the only known cure for heart flutter, and that’s medically proven.”

Another measurable benefit of hanging upside down is that it rebalances the hormone system. Conditions like cystic ovaries, difficulties getting pregnant, and menstrual disorders, are all improved and in most cases cured by regular inversion, Terrell says.

Yoga practitioners have been talking about the health benefits of inverted poses such as headstand and shoulder-stand for centuries but now we also have the science to back this up.

Researchers have studied the psychological effects of inverted poses, which have been found to dramatically affect hormone levels, brain arousal, blood pressure, fluid balance and more. Among other changes, when the body turns upside down the heart rate slows and the blood vessels dilate. The extra blood in the upper body stimulates the baroreceptor nerves in the aorta and neck, which in turn signal the central nervous system to lower blood pressure and slow down brainwaves.


The magical effect of inversion is also well known in the animal world. It’s called Tonic Immobility and is a natural state of paralysis that animals enter, often called animal hypnosis. It may be related to mating in animals like sharks. It may also be a way of deterring predators aka ‘playing dead’.

“If you turn a shark upside down, it’ll go into a trance,” Terrell says. “If you want to do magic acts with rabbits and doves, you hide them in your jacket hanging upside down so they go very still and won’t move around. Mammals and very primitive animals go into trance when you hang them upside down. We’re also able to use it with headstands and hand-stands.”

In yoga, the shoulder and headstand are described as the queen and king of poses. “What this indicates is that these poses will give you more benefits than the others, so they’re royalty because you get so many benefits. Heart disease can be cured by going upside down. Headaches and migraines can be cured and I’ve been treating women who have difficulty getting pregnant and so far I have a 100 per cent success rate.

“The trouble with doing headstand or shoulder-stand yourself is that you’re controlling it and you think, ‘I don’t want to be here longer than two minutes’ or ‘my arm hurts’. For most westerners, headstand and shoulder-stand are not comfortable so the advantage of Inversion Therapy is that I basically do it for them, I can take someone very comfortably into inversion for a longer time.

“Now, in a headstand and shoulder-stand you do yourself, you’re compressing the spine but the way that I hang people, the spine is decompressed, so disc problems, stuck vertebra, etc are very often improved just by hanging. There’s a unique spinal twist in the first position which is rather like chiropractic but you’re letting yourself go as much as you want to so it’s very safe.”


How does just turning upside down cure conditions like heart murmurs and depression? Terrell explains: “What is the cause of heart flutter? It’s to do with stress; emotional and mental stress, and how do we relieve that? We hang upside down and we slow the brain down. By slowing the brain down, our physiology changes. The heart does not have to work so hard because the brain is getting its oxygen without any effort. Emotionally, mentally and physiologically, the heart is now allowed to rest. What do hearts do? They beat evenly. So with the pressure off, the heart gets back into shape. Inversion is a cure for heart flutter and it’s the only known cure. There are some pills for heart flutter but they don’t cure it, they only keep it at bay. You’ve got upside down, headstand, handstand and shoulder stand. I do it in a relaxed way where people don’t have to do anything so they can do it for longer and be more comfortable.”


As far as the link between depression and inversion, when you go upside down, it slows the brain, dropping the brainwave into an alpha or theta state. Terrell says a person can only run the programmes for depression in beta brain waves. Alpha and theta waves won’t support depressive programmes.

“So although you want to feel really sorry for yourself and you repress the feelings and you don’t look after your needs and you try to control everything by planning and planning… you can’t do that in alpha waves so the depression disappears and a new open space of consciousness opens up. That’s the whole point of the upside down, to change the brainwaves.”


Hanging upside down is a powerful healing technique because, among other things, it slows the brain down, which changes our brainwave state and physiology. This heals everything from depression and migraines to back pain, infertility and heart murmurs.

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