Inversion devices in various forms have been used in yoga studios for decades so the exact origins of this practice are unclear and are rarely agreed upon. While there were surely yogis hanging upside down from ropes hanging from trees thousands of years ago, most people credit the late yoga master, BKS Iyengar, with popularizing and systematizing the practice.
In this studio in Pune, India, Iyengar introduced his yoga students (who came from all over the world) to all many different yoga props that have now become common including: blocks, straps, ropes, yoga chairs, and improvised yoga inversion slings.
Iyengar himself appears in some of the earliest photos documenting inversion sling yoga practice. In the old photos, he uses a thick rope and stack of rolled up mats to practice passive backbends in his yoga studio.
YOGABODY® founder, Lucas Rockwood, first discovered inverted slings in 2004 while living in Thailand. Frustrated by the design and durability of early models, Lucas spent three years in development and eventually created a studio-quality device now known as, The Yoga Trapeze®. It’s used in 81 countries in homes, studios, and fitness centers around the world.
While modern yoga props have improved in quality and comfort for inversion sling yoga, the fundamental concept is the same. These simple devices allow you to practice new and different poses in ways that can transform your practice, and in particular, your spinal health, core and upper body strength.
While many forms of physical fitness or athletics can create massive imbalances in the body, a traditional yoga practice does an excellent job of creating balance and overall health including: muscle strength, mobility, cardiovascular health, respiratory health, circulation, and general fitness. It’s difficult to fault yoga as a form of exercise, but the one thing that is clearly missing and very difficult to create in a mat-based class is the functional movement of pulling or rowing.
Functional strength must include pushing, holding, and pulling. Yoga offers thousands of opportunities for both pushing and holding, but without lifting heavy things (like your body weight or a dumb bell), pulling is missing. As a result, many yoga students have poor grip strength, weak wrists and shoulders. It’s not uncommon for yoga students to suffer from wrist, shoulder, and upper back and neck pain, and it’s most-often due to undeveloped strength rather than poor alignment as is often cited as the cause.
So what does this have to do with the Yoga Trapeze®? Everything. Most students initially get interested in the Yoga Trapeze® for the spinal traction and passive backbends, but very quickly they learn that the functional pulling and grip strength is equally (if not more) valuable and truly “completes” yoga as a comprehensive fitness modality.
A yoga practice that integrates the Yoga Trapeze®, even if just once or twice per week, can include pushing, pulling, holding, twists, backbends, forward bends, hip opening and so much more. You can work your shoulders, calm your nerves, and leave class floating on air.