Are yoga headstands dangerous for the neck?

19th July 2018

Are yoga headstands dangerous for the neck?

Few are the yoga poses with more misconceptions than headstands. If you have started reading this article just to get the answer to the question on the title, the answer is: NO. Why would any pose put your body at risk of an injury?

In which case you may ask: “Then why do I feel my neck hurting when I practice headstands?” or “Why did my friend Suzy injured hers when she came out of a headstand through a somersault?”

The reality is that any pose can put the body at risk when it is not performed properly. So let’s review what it takes to practice headstands properly:

1. The top of the head is on the floor and the shoulders are up (away from the ears).

Ensuring that is in place, will be sufficient to save most neck injuries. If instead of placing the top of the head (image 1) on the floor you position your forehead (image 2), the neck will be under pressure. If the shoulders are not lifted (image 4) your shoulder joint is not stable. This will result in the recruitment of the shoulder and to a lesser extent of the lats. Whenever you hear someone saying that he cannot do a headstand because his shoulders are not strong, you know he is having bad technique.

image 1 image 2

image 3 image 4

2. The hand (in the tripod version) or the elbows (in the traditional version) should be as wide as the shoulders.

The moment the base of the triangle is wider than the shoulder width (image 6), the shoulders are taking over from the lats. Looking at someone’s base is the best predictor on whether he will flip over. Tell that to Suzy next time she sets her hands and head up for a headstand.

image 5 image 6

3. Similar to all inversions or even poses keep your naval in.

You do not need a 6 pack for a straight line headstand. All upright poses is a good place to train your naval in action (image 7). At some point it will be 2nd nature and you will not need to think about it.

image 7 image 8

Headstand is sometimes called the king of asanas. Sirsasana or headstand is an elementary pose and you do not need to fear it. In the video below you can see a progression to learn headstand.

Here are the 1st headstand variations I suggest students start practicing once they are comfortable with the straight line.

Practice regularly and remember there is no substitute to the feedback you get from your teacher.