By Bhavan Kumar
One concern that many people have with Yoga is that certain positions (asanas) could actually be harmful. Depending on the type of body one has, any posture could be beneficial or harmful. This is especially true with headstands. The truth is, you should talk with your doctor about your Yoga practice and this is very important. While there can be a risk, the danger can be removed or modified if you understand your body and perform the pose correctly.
The initial concern new Yoga students have with standing on the head is that too much pressure is being placed on the neck and spine. This is a legitimate concern and time spent on preparation is important. Time should be invested in foundational poses such as Dolphin and Half Headstand before practicing Headstands.
The Dolphin Pose and Half Headstand can actually increase the strength of the surrounding muscles, and become easier to do over time. However, Headstand is a pose that should not be done without a Yoga teacher, if you have not worked the muscles enough to ensure stability. Falling could potentially cause damage.
The more peculiar danger is spikes in intraocular pressure (IOP), the pressure of the fluid in the eye. The American Academy of Ophthalmology performed a study in 2006 that found Yoga students and instructors doubled the pressure in their eye when in a headstand position.
Fortunately, the pressure returns to normal within seconds after getting back on your feet. While this is not a problem for most people, those with severe eye problems such as glaucoma, detached retina, or eye tissue damage should avoid headstands. Also, healthy individuals should not hold a headstand longer than they feel is comfortable for them.
Placing yourself in the headstand pose also raises the blood pressure in the body. For this reason, you should avoid or limit the amount of time you spend in this position to avoid raising your hypertension to a dangerous level. Even those without high blood pressure should not remain in the position for an extended period of time to reduce uncomfortably raising it.
While there have been no formal studies to confirm this, some people have reported experiencing heartburn after performing a headstand. The position could aggravate existing heartburn by allowing the acids in the stomach to back up into the esophagus. If you are someone who is prone to heartburn, avoid placing your body in a downward position after eating. This includes both lying down and performing inversions.
All mental and physical activities are governed by our brains. Even though there are risks associated with headstands in Yoga, there are benefits for both the body and the mind. At the same time, the head stand is not for every student. As the headstand increases the flow of blood to the brain, it revitalizes the whole body and mind, as it also regenerates the nervous system. With your doctor’s permission and under the guidance of a competent and compassionate Yoga instructor, inversions can provide a sense of equilibrium and overall well-being. Students who have had a stroke, are at risk of a stroke, have heart problems or have epilepsy are also advised to avoid headstand and consult their physicians about practicing any inversions.
© Copyright 2011 – Aura Wellness Center – Publications Division
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