Headstand Safety

Uncategorized Jul 10, 2020


What makes Yoga so alluring to most of us isn't just its promised peace of mind and tranquility, but the mechanical intelligence we develop along the way. As we learn how to execute postures with precision and subtlety, we become more enthused about performing feats previously thought unachievable. Our flexibility, strength, and dexterity improve, and further reinforce our motivation to practice.

Yet the distinction between ability and sensitivity isn't always obvious when a new posture/technique is being implemented. When an individual executes any movement, most of their attention is consumed by the commands that the mind issues to the muscles, especially if the movement has not yet been hardwired into the subconscious mind, as is the case with something like walking. When the mind is so acutely and rigorously engaged, it is difficult to be sensitive to deeper and more subtle aspects of one's body. These deep and subtle sensations offer insight into the mechanical interaction between joint surfaces.

The shape of a joint is what provides that joint with its parameters and limitations of movement. The fact that our knee only bends in one direction, and along a single plane, is made possible only by the shape of the bones that comprise it. If a joint moves accurately along its pathway, the health and integrity of the joint isn't only protected against wear and tear, but is actually protected. Only when joint surfaces articulate inaccurately, that they incur damage. But what is important to keep in mind is that there are gradations of inaccuracy and misalignment. Sometimes a limb and its joints can move just slightly inaccurately, as is the case when someone walks awkwardly from uncomfortable shoes, or grossly inaccurately, as is the case when someone takes a mindless step off of a curb, and sprains their ankle.

It takes no strength of focus and concentration to feel the ankle sprain. But if the intensity of the misalignment is reduced, we have to employ a much more subtle focus in order to perceive the mechanical properties of the given joint. This can take time, especially if an individual has not developed the habit of body awareness.

What makes the less intense misalignment more pernicious is exactly because it is less noticeable. This means that it can last for years, and continue just below the level of awareness, slowly wearing away at the structure of the joint. The harsh reality is that it often does last for years in many Yogis, that later pay the price with their wellbeing. Incidence of neck and hip injury from a incorrect or premature execution of certain postures, are more common among veteran teachers than we know. 

This is the reason alignment is so critical in Yoga practice. It is critical because there will always be the next and more challenging posture, or variation thereof. So there will always be opportunity to struggle and learn something that is going to consume a lot of attention. Which means there will always be an opportunity to overlook the sensations of joints below the muscular surface of any posture/movement.

So if we cannot always rely on our perceptions to understand what is happening literally beneath our skin, our only recourse is to defer to the more external and objective shape and position of our limbs. This is the domain of correct technique.

When it comes to the anatomical and biomechanical principles that are relevant to Headstand (Sirsasana), the technique and alignment that is necessary to maintain safety and function, become evident.

It's important to keep in mind that even though there is a greater potential for injury in Headstand, inversions are still very important and healthy to inculcate into one's Wellness practices. Its benefits include the promotion of better circulation and cardiovascular health. They also have an effect on the immune system by stimulating better lymphatic circulation and drainage. Neurological and psychological benefits are often reported by students with an affinity for inversions, which could be credited to the cerebrospinal fluid production that Dr. David Coulter, of "Anatomy of Hatha Yoga" reported in his research.

The following Video is a brief overview of these points and demonstration of the techniques that will ensure years of safe Headstands for you!

Please watch the Full tutorial below and let me know how it goes for you


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