Sirsha-asanaBy Paul Jerard, E-RYT 500

What is an inverted posture, or an inversion, in a Hatha Yoga class? Technically, any posture (asana), in which the head is below the heart, is an inversion. Whether you stand on your head, bend forward, or bend back, if the head is below the heart, you are performing an inversion.

This also means that Downward Dog (Adho Mukha Svanasana) and Fish (Matsyasana) are also inversions – although both postures are mild in comparison to Head Stand (Sirsasana). If you bend back far enough in Camel (Ustrasana) -that is also an inversion.

This is not meant to beat a dead horse, but inversions are not for everyone. When you perform any Yoga technique, there should be a clear intention. If the risks outweigh the benefits, there is no logical reason why a teacher or student should practice a technique. The following contraindications are specifically related to inversions.

General Guidelines for all Inverted Postures

If you have any of the following conditions, please omit inversions or work with a competent teacher who will modify your practice. To identify a competent Yoga teacher is not difficult. Is the teacher really interested in his or her students? Is your safety a primary guideline in class? If not, please seek the guidance of a knowledgeable teacher, who cares for his or her students.

If you are a teacher, you should make it a point to know about the physical condition of each student. This means that new students, who show up late, disrupt your classes, take risks if they have any medical conditions, and will hold you liable if anything goes wrong.

The solution: Do not teach students who you have not talked to before class. A student’s medical condition is information that you must know in order to teach Yoga safely. In the following cases, inversions should be omitted, adjusted, or modified, depending on the health condition of a student.

In the case of neck problems, eye problems, a previous stroke, high blood pressure, heart problems, sinus problems, and epilepsy, inverted asanas should be omitted, adjusted, or modified. If a student is pregnant, she should be practicing with a prenatal Yoga specialist.

In the case of menstruation, there is much controversy. About a contraindication for menstruation: At this point, there is no hard data or research that would warrant an official warning.

Therefore, it might be wise to let students know about the controversy. Students should be made aware and make a decision based upon their own thoughts and research. You could easily design an informative handout for students and encourage them to research all of these contraindications.

Lastly, never put a student at risk. If you have serious doubts about a student’s ability to safely perform an inverted asana, because of a health issue, you should omit it or insist on a doctor’s note.

© Copyright 2009 – Paul Jerard / Aura Publications

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