History of Inversion Therapy

A time honored practice

The history of Inversion therapy as a restorative healing method, has been around for thousands of years.

Inversion for therapeutic purposes is positioning the body with the heart higher than the head. Inversions are a foundational element of yoga with poses such as handstands, legs-up-the-wall, and shoulder stands.

As early as 400 B.C., Hippocrates developed the first known gravity boots.

Norwegian military troops, in more ancient times, are reported to have used inversion as a rejuvenation tactic. The soldiers were known to lie on hillsides with feet on the upside to re-energize & prepare for battle.

Throughout history, leveraging the healing powers of gravity has been used in various cultures around the world as a natural remedy to reduce back pain and improve circulation—vein circulation, lymphatics, and lung function. A core element of Chinese Medicine and other ancient healing traditions is circulation and improving, moving the flow of circulation.

Postural drainage, a form of inversion therapy is used (along with chest physiotherapy like tapotement) with treating pneumonia or cystic fibrosis patients by respiratory therapists. 

Various products have been developed over the years to enable people to benefit from the experience of being in an inverted or inclined position. Some of these products are with a gentle, low angle recline, and others are full, upside down inversion. 

The Vintage Inversion Slant Board

Your grandparents may be familiar with Inversion Slant Boards, incline boards, or "beauty boards" as they used to be more widely known. 

The first recorded product patent was in 1902.

In 1946, inventor May MacGregor filed for a patent for her “Rest and Exercise Board” invention. She was a trailblazing woman inventor. 

Female inventor May MacGregor and her patent drawings for an incliner (gentle-inversion slant board)

From the early 1940s, a variety of people promoted the inversion slant board, incline board, and other low angle gentle inversion type products. 

Dr. Bernard Jensen, a pioneer in alternative medicine, dedicated much of his life from around the 1940s to the 1980s promoting slant board use with his patients to help improve their health and wellness, and wrote a book titled Slanting Board, A New Slant on Health and Beauty. He incorporated them into his wellness workshops held at the Hidden Valley Ranch spa in Escondido CA.

Vintage Inversion Slantboard, Bernard Jensen book

As a "Beauty and Anti-Aging Secret"

Hollywood actors in the 1950s popularized slant boards and they were touted as a “beauty and an anti-aging secret.”

Olivia De Havilland, Ginger Rogers, and Jennifer Jones are known to have used them for an energy boost and to freshen up the face before sets. They became known as the Hollywood Slant. Anita Colby in her book "The Hollywood Slant on Beauty" writes of the various health and beauty benefits from using these vintage slant boards and insisted all her "girls" use it daily. She wrote about using the inversion slant board as an essential anti-aging exercise. “Once in the position, simply relax here for 15 to 20 minutes seeing black and seeing blank. Think of Nothing Except to Count Your Blessings".

In 1965 Dallas, Texas, the trendsetting Greenhouse Spa, co-conceived by Neiman Marcus' brother was built to attract luxury shoppers into town (and to the store), and had a room of incliners ("slant boards") to help rejuvenate their guests. See slide #7 from this NYT article.

In the 1973 movie The Last of Sheila with James Mason and Raquel Welch, there is a scene where you can see an inversion slant board being brought aboard a yacht and set up for one of the actor’s use. 

Slant boards were sold in the Sears and Roebuck catalog and the Hammacher Schlemmer catalog and manufactured by several different companies, such as the Healthways Equipment Company. 

Most were folding, sat at a fixed angle position, and made with hollow aluminum frames with a vinyl covered foam cushion. There were also inflatable and foam full body slant pillows.

Vintage Inversion Slant Board

Inversion Tables

In the 1980s the incline board/inversion slant board began to lose popularity with the emergence of gravity boot contraptions and later, full inversion A-frame tables where one tips upside down.

Flashback to a Richard Gere scene in the movie American Gigolo movie.

By the 1990s, inversion slant boards faded out of production and out of people's awareness. Perhaps a reflection of the times as people were drawn to a more immediate sense of gratification.

A re-envisioning

At InclineRx, we believe that gentle-inversion remains an effective healing remedy and worthy of a reintroduction. That is why we're here.

Whether known as a slant board, incline board, low angle inversion board, therapeutic back bench, zero gravity table, gentle inversion table, or an Incliner, this product is a useful tool and a simple, powerful, and transformative way to feel good in your body, mind, and spirit. 

Our mission at InclineRx is to bring ease to the caring of this one body we've been given.

We've created our iteration as a furniture piece for your home environment—to fit naturally in your space and support you in the way you care for yourself.