There is an impression in the yoga realm that everything labeled as “yoga” is safe and is a “must do”.
Headstand is included.
Headstand is one of the asanas that, in the long term, can cause the most serious injuries to yoga practitioners …
Long-term yogis have come to me many times to complain that they suffer from stiffness, pain and serious injury in the neck. Some were even about to have a neck surgery.
The first question I ask them is, “Do you practice headstand?” In most cases the answer is “Yes”!
I have guided a tremendous number of yogis to heal their own necks just by suggesting that they stop standing on their heads like they were pumpkins.
And it always made a huge difference within a short period of time.
Here are the reasons why headstands may not be the right practice for all, and for some of us, can be extremely dangerous:
1. The 7 vertebrae of the neck are the smallest in the spine and they are designed to hold the weight of the head only! For most people, even their heads are too heavy to be carried by their necks and as a result, many people suffer from chronic neck pain and tension.
2. To do headstand in the right way, one must lean only on the forearms and shoulders while the head is off the floor, even just by an inch, but off the floor!
Most people are not strong enough in their shoulder and back muscles, and as a result they lean the weight of their WHOLE body on the fragile head and neck vertebrae, compressing the disks in between the vertebrae as if they were pitta bread. This situation often leads to a pinched nerve or slipped disk.
3. In between the vertebrae there are disks that function as shock absorbers. It is very important that they do not get flat and thin so that the vertebrae do not get close to each other and pinch the nerves that come out from the spinal cord.
The disks are made of 90% water and must keep absorbing fluid to remain nice and healthy and thick.
When there is too much weight on the disks, they stop absorbing fluid, dry up and become thin. This is what happens in headstand, the whole neck gets compressed as well as the many nerves in the neck area.
4. Yoga originated in India where in general, people have smaller and lighter frames than Western people.
Imagine how harmful standing on the head can be for a large man or women.
5. If standing on the head does not make sense anatomically, and can be so harmful, why is this asana called the ‘king of all asanas’?
My wise friend Nimrod Eliyahu Steinbock says, ‘To be a king means to be the master of prana.’
At the level of higher consciousness, your body is more prana than it is flesh; your body becomes light and radiant. With such pranic lightness one cannot damage the neck even if the whole body is leaning on the head. In a pranic body the mass transforms into frequency.
So if you want to keep your head and neck injury free, these are your options:
1. Became a light, radiant, pranic body.
2. Or become super strong in your arm, shoulder and back muscles so you have the ability to lift your head off the floor while doing headstand.
Until then, I recommend that you avoid headstand and instead, practice shoulder stand, the ‘queen of all asanas’.
Everyone knows that behind any powerful king there is an even more powerful queen…
So be it.
Shakti Mhi is the founder of Prana Yoga College, the only yoga centre in the world that offers all its yoga classes for free, no limitations and no donations.
Prana Yoga College offer also Yoga Teacher Training program in Israel and Europe. Click here for more details about our courses in English>>