Often known as the king of yoga postures, Sirsasana I (Headstand) is usually a refreshing and energizing inversion that, when practiced persistently, builds power within the higher physique and core. For years, the posture has been praised for offering bodily advantages—nevertheless it’s additionally been criticized for exposing the top and neck to weight that would trigger damage. In reality, in some yoga communities, Headstand has utterly misplaced its place on the throne, and it has even been banned in some studios.
In conventional yoga practices, Headstand is an inverted posture taught in seven totally different varieties. In the variation we’ll take a look at right here, the bottom of help is the highest of the cranium. To get into the pose, come to your knees, place your forearms on the ground, and clasp your arms, positioning your elbows shoulder-width aside (creating an inverted V from clasped arms to your elbows). Find the ground with the crown of your head, and cradle the again of your head together with your clasped palms. Engage your higher physique as you press your elbows and wrists into the ground, and raise your shoulders. Once you determine this secure base, raise your legs off the ground till your physique is inverted and erect, balancing in your head and forearms.
These are commonplace cues for educating Headstand. Where issues get inconsistent, nevertheless, is on the subject of the cues that assist college students work out methods to distribute their weight between the top and the forearms. Some say there must be little to no weight on the top, whereas others apply an iteration of the Pareto precept (i.e. the 80/20 rule) and advocate extra weight on the forearms than the top.
Insightful academics perceive an “ideal” distribution can’t be taught, as it’ll rely considerably on particular person anthropometrics (the science of measuring the dimensions and proportions of the human physique). For instance, if the size of a practitioner’s higher arm bones is longer than the size of her head and neck, that yogi’s head might by no means attain the ground; if the practitioner’s head-and-neck size are longer than her higher arm bones, she might wrestle to succeed in the ground together with her forearms. These examples are extremes, however they do serve to elucidate why we will’t cue a person into correct weight distribution, because the proportions between the highest of the top and the forearms depend upon a person’s particular anatomy.
In hopes of offering knowledge for higher understanding how protected (or unsafe) Headstand is perhaps, researchers on the University of Texas at Austin studied 45 skilled, grownup yoga practitioners who have been expert sufficient to carry the pose for 5 regular breaths. The research resulted in a 2014 paper revealed within the Journal of Bodywork & Movement Therapies that helps shed some mild on the continued Headstand debate.
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Study: three Variations of Headstand
In a lab, 45 skilled yogis accomplished a 10-minute warm-up. Then, reflective markers have been hooked up to their chins; foreheads; earlobes; cervical (C3 and C7), thoracic (T9), and lumbar vertebrae (L5); femurs; and toes. This allowed the researchers to measure the practitioners’ actions with a motion-capture digital camera system. Force plates (assume high-tech toilet scales that measure how a lot pressure is being generated by the our bodies they arrive in touch with) have been used to measure how a lot pressure acted on their heads and necks all through the exercise.
The yogis have been then cut up into three teams based mostly on how they sometimes enter and exit the pose. (There have been 15 yogis studied in every group: 13 ladies and two males.) They have been requested to enter the pose, maintain the complete inversion for 5 breaths, after which exit the pose. Data have been collected throughout these three distinct phases of every variation—entry, stability, and exit:
• Split-leg entry and exit: Knees bend and pull into the chest; one leg straightens and the opposite follows till each legs are stacked above the hips and shoulders. Reverse to exit.
• Curl-up and curl-down entry and exit: Knees bend and pull into the chest; each knees straighten concurrently till each legs are stacked above the hips and shoulders. Reverse to exit.
• Pike-up and pike-down entry and exit: Straight legs carry collectively till ankles, knees, hips and shoulders are stacked. Reverse to exit.
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Results Offer New Insight Into Headstand
This analysis assessed pressure, neck angle, loading price, and middle of strain:
Force: Among all 45 research members, the utmost drive utilized to the crown of the top throughout entry, exit, and stability in all three variations of entry and exit was between 40 and 48 % of members’ physique weight. For a lady weighing 150 kilos, that equals someplace between 60 and 72 kilos. The threshold for neck failures is unclear; the authors cited an estimate starting from 67 and three,821 kilos, noting that males are likely to have a higher threshold for weight-bearing on their necks. This suggests ladies ought to be particularly cautious when training Headstand.
The stability part, the place practitioners held Headstand for 5 breaths, exhibited the best drive on the top. Exiting the pose contributed the least drive on the top. It is essential to notice that anthropometric knowledge weren’t collected.
Loading fee: To perceive loading price, it’s essential to know “strain rate.” Strain refers back to the change in form of the tissue when a load is utilized, and fee refers back to the velocity at which a load is utilized. In the human physique, resistance related to quicker loading charges can result in elevated load failure. With this in thoughts, it is very important respect the advantages of getting into Headstand slowly. The research discovered that loading fee was quickest because the yogis entered Headstand (regardless of which model of entry), adopted intently by popping out of the pose (once more, regardless of which model of exiting). The group of yogis piking into the pose had slower loading charges than these kicking up, suggesting that piking up into Headstand could also be greatest for decreasing the loading price.
Neck angle: Loading the neck throughout flexion has lengthy been thought to extend danger for damage; subsequently, neck angle was examined throughout all methods. The knowledge confirmed the neck angle in the course of the peak pressure was not considerably totally different throughout phases or method. Overall, the neck was in extension throughout entry, and in impartial or flexion throughout stability and exit throughout all methods. The backside line: There is potential for loaded neck flexion when working towards Headstand, which can deter you from together with this posture in your follow.
Center of strain: The middle of strain on the crown of the top was measured to find out how a lot shifting takes place through the three phases of Headstand. Regardless of method, all of the practitioners’ middle of strain shifted round their heads considerably, principally as they entered and exited the pose. This capability to shift and regulate in the course of the pose could be useful by decreasing the utmost drive utilized to the crown of the top (as a result of floor response drive decreases because the physique veers off its vertical axis). But swaying aspect to aspect in Headstand might expose the neck to lateral (aspect) pressure, which can trigger damage.
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How to Teach Headstand Safely
So, is Headstand protected? While this analysis doesn’t give us definitive solutions, it’s the first research to quantify masses on the neck throughout Headstand and will help us transfer ahead within the security debate. Keep in thoughts, nevertheless, that different variations of Headstand (like Tripod Headstand) weren’t examined, and we don’t have knowledge on novices.
I consider it’s more than likely that a specific amount of weight on the neck and head is protected when met with a sluggish, managed entry method. On the flip aspect, an uncontrolled or high-momentum kick-up and kick-down might put the neck and supporting buildings in danger for strains, fractures, and neurological problems.
For optimum security, I’d advocate working towards probably the most troublesome entry and exit: the pike-up and pike-down, which was proven to impose the least quantity of drive on the crown of the top, in addition to the bottom weight-loading charges.
6 Tips for Teaching Headstand
Long in the past, I ended educating Sirsasana I in public yoga courses due to the uncertainty round its security. I do, nevertheless, apply the pose frequently in my very own follow and train it in my yoga instructor trainings. This research validated my security considerations and additional emphasised the significance of creating talent over attaining the aesthetics of the pose. Here are the steps and tips which will assist maintain you protected when training this pose:
• When applicable, accommodate your anatomy through the use of a blanket so as to add height to both your arms or your head and neck.
• Press the lengths of your inside and outer forearms into the mat, whereas making an attempt to carry them off the mat (they gained’t truly go anyplace). This co-contraction helps to construct power within the shoulder complicated.
• Build this co-contraction endurance for a minimal of eight breaths earlier than trying to raise your ft off the ground. (Eight breaths ought to account for getting into, holding for 5 breaths, and exiting the pose).
• Repeat the above endurance exercise together with your ft elevated on a block, then a chair, working the pelvis over the shoulders.
• Gradually and progressively study to pike up into the pose.
• Avoid the pose when your stress ranges are excessive, sleep is compromised, you’re fatigued, different psychosocial elements are affecting your well-being, or you’ve a contraindicated medical situation.
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About Our Pros
Author Jules Mitchell MS, CMT, RYT is a yoga instructor, educator, and therapeutic massage therapist in San Francisco. She contributes to yoga instructor training packages and leads workshops worldwide. Her upcoming ebook, Yoga Biomechanics: Stretching Redefined, might be revealed this yr. Learn extra at julesmitchell.com.
Model Robyn Capobianco, PhD, is a biomechanics professional and researcher. Learn extra at drrobyncapo.com.