As almost an entirely separate class of poses, Inversions offer yet another critical perspective on the topic of wellbeing. In one of the most thorough and indulging technical manuals of the practice of yoga “Anatomy of Hatha Yoga”, David Coulter, Ph.D. explains that inversions provide a salutary effect to the nervous system, not easily accessed in any other posture.
Cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) present only within the Central Nervous system (brain & spine), functions as a cushion to prevent traumatic contact with the structures of the cranium and vertebral column during movement, but also as a transport vehicle for the import nutrients, and export of waste products. Dr. Coulter explains that this fluid can become stagnant and suffer a reduction of the necessary role it provides, which inversions stimulate and help restore to better function.
In the era of Yoga’s mainstream popularity, illustrations of difficult, and to most people unattainable postures, have become a norm. This has affected the studentship of the greater Yoga community, in a way where too many students desire the attainment of advanced physical feats far too early, by not taking the time to establish a consistent and committed practice, to the safer and much more instructive simple beginner poses.
Without question, Inversions have been the poses who have caught the attention of the multitudes. Among them, Headstand (Sirsasana) has become the quintessential entry point for everyone who sets about to begin their climb to the more advanced variations of forearm and hand stands. By comparison to other inversions, headstands offer stability that no others can. But just because it has a more stable base of support, does not innoculate it against the application of technique by which safety can be assured.
The area of greatest concern in headstands is the cervical spine (neck). The vertebra of the neck are the smallest and most fragile of the entire spinal column. It is because the human neck did not evolve to place ones entire weight upon it, that extraordinary care must be undertaken to condition its structure to have more integrity. This cannot be done in the course of months, or even a few years, all depending on the frequency with which someone practices, but only by a gradual building up and conditioning of it. It is because headstands do not require much flexibility, or remarkably precise technique, that beginners often embark on them, either without the consent of a qualified teacher, or even by their uneducated recommendation.
Nevertheless, the exceptional physiological benefits that inversions provide should still be capitalized on, in a much more safe setup.
Chair headstand is not just one of the safest variations to the classical pose, but even more beneficial than not doing it at all. By supporting the body on the shoulders, the weight of the head is used to decompress the neck, in a way that no other posture could mimic. The modern human neck is laden with tension that is rooted in the business of the modern lifestyle, and if gone unchecked may eventually aberrate into pathologies such as degenerative disc disease and osteoarthritis. This version of headstand pinpoints these common sites of chronic muscular tension, whose very muscle fibres orientation, keeps the neck compressed.
- 2 folding chairs (or just any 2 chairs of identical height)
- 2 yoga mat cuts/pieces
- 2 Yoga blankets (or equally thick towels)
- Yoga mat
- Place both chairs on top of a yoga mat (or any non-slip surface) facing each other, making sure the distance between seat edges is the same as the width of the neck (not the head), and place one cut of mat on each seat
- Fold the blanket into roughly the size of the seat. The fold thickness may be adjusted for comfort
- Beginning on the knees, place both hands on top of the blankets to make sure they are not pushed or wrinkled upon entry
- Move head backwards to rest the shoulders on the chair edges, and turn the hands around to hold the metal side of the chairs
- Holding chairs firmly, lift both knees, walk feet towards the head, and use the arms to help the legs up
- Once heels are touching the wall, make sure to keep the buttocks away from the wall the entire time
- Once stable, slowly release the hand grip and rest upper arms on the seats
- Optionally, the arms may be placed laterally on the seats at a 90 degree abducted position
When finished come right into Child's pose/Adho mukha virasana for no less than 1 min.
* It will require full concentration to relax the muscles that are resting on the edge of the chairs. As your aptitude and tolerance of this pose’s sensations have become more familiar, it is important to continue relaxing the shoulder/neck muscles.
This is the perfect pose at the end of the day for anyone (3-5 mins)
Note: The presence of disc disease or osteoarthritis is should not exempt anyone from the pose. Alleviation to the pressure on the discs, is suitable for anyone.
High/Low Blood pressure: start with 1 minute at a time and track how you feel during and immediately after coming out of the pose, to make sure equilibrium is established.