Sunday, January 10, 2010

Inversions: If You Can't Beat 'Em, Join 'Em.


Most of the time, higher air temperature is cooler than lower air temperature. This is because the sun’s energy is converted to heat as it hits the ground and makes the temperature near the surface warm. Once this heat radiates off the earth, the air expands and rises, cooling it as it goes. Sometimes, especially in winter and at night, this process is reversed when with clear skies (classic Utah) the sun goes down and the ground gets cold, cooling the air close to the ground. The higher air is suddenly warmer than the new cold air on bottom, and voila! an inversion is born. The warm air on top acts like a lid and traps the cool air on bottom as well as all the pollution that is sitting in that cold air, pollution from cars, fireplaces, and industry, etc. Us creatures who live near the surface are left to stew in our own muck and breathe all the gunk we would otherwise hope to drift out of sight and out of mind. In the murky inversion, we see clearly just what kind of pollution we emit every day, and we are forced to breathe that pollution.

The Sanskrit term for inversions is Viprita Karani, meaning active reversal. The ancients knew the value of changing things up, flipping things on their head for a different perspective and a different way of operating. Physically, getting upside-down is great for strengthening the muscles in the shoulders and arms as well as abdominals. Inversions are also great for cultivating balance and activating sluggish digestion. Getting upside-down reminds us that when life gets turned in the opposite direction than you’d expected, not only can you deal but maybe even learn to thrive. Inversions bring a lot of blood and energy to your head, great for stimulating your brain. Plus, inversions (the yoga kind) are fun. The not-so-fun kind of inversion is great for keeping us mindful about what we are doing to our air.

This week, let’s practice turning things around. There are inversions for every body in every practice, ranging from simple, restorative poses to fun, intense poses. Let’s find a version that matches your practice.

Perhaps with this clarity of turning upside-down and putting all this new energy into our noggins, we can come up with some great solutions for the pollution we are forced to sit in during these temperature inversions. I’ve come up with a few. Please feel free to add to the list.

1) If we all work together using the breathing techniques of our pranayama practice, maybe we can blow out all the gunk and start out fresh.

2) Carpool to practice or take the bus, eliminating excess pollution; and don't idle your car longer than 10 to 15 seconds.

3) Turn off lights and other electrical devises that don’t need to be running. Much of our electricity comes from coal, which causes pollution.

4) Pretend that pollution doesn't exist and continue doing what we want until we all die of lung cancer from smokin' two packs of car exhaust a day.

5) Write yet another folk song about air pollution and add some more hot air to the atmosphere.

6) Skate, blade, run, bike, ski, dog sled, luge, skip, walk, pogo, moonwalk, saunter, strut, dance, lurk, creep, levitate, paddle, row, swim, climb, or fly to class.

Click comment below to add to the list.

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