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headstand - injuries?
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February 13, 2009 - 3:43 am
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hello!

yesterday i did a mistake (well, my own fault as i should know better <img src=" title="Embarassed" />): i made a headstand without warming up. i'm still "trying" on the posture (i just managed to do the headstand a couple of weeks ago) and probably my arms and shoulders are not the strongest yet... well and while i was in the headstand for about half a minute or so, i felt some pain in my neck/shoulder/upper back. i can't remember exactly what happened because it happened very quick.

well that happend last night and i hoped that sleeping and resting would help but now in the morning i still have pain. i can't even tell if it's from the cervical spine or the muscles around or a combination of both. when i try to move my head, the pain is pulling from neck to shoulder (left side) which then limits my range of movement.

i know you're not doctors but as you all are familiar with yoga and the postures, can you maybe tell me what COULD have happened in the headstand? are there any common injuries with that posture?

thanks for your help -

namaste,

carina

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January 14, 2011 - 6:47 am
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Namaskar Uabxu,

Hatha Yoga is a healthy practice, but everything we do should be for long term gain. Risking one's health is not going to gain anything. When you consider gravity, blood pressure, skeletal structure, density of blood, blood clots, and the concepts of pooling blood; there are many obvious health risks to performing headstand.

Structural damage to the cervical spine, the sudden increase in blood pressure, detached retina, and the risk of a stroke are just headliners on a long list of conditions that may cause you to reconsider the headstand.

The best decision for your health would be to consult with your doctor before performing another headstand. He or she knows your exact state of health. Some people may be able to practice headstand for life and some should abandon the practice for medical reasons at any point in life. There is always some risk involved with performing headstand and the risks are magnified as we age.

OM Shanti,

Paul

https://www.aurawellnesscenter.com/

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February 13, 2009 - 8:33 pm
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Namaskar Carina,

I hope you visited a doctor today. Headstand (Shirshasana) is one of those asanas that should come with a warning label. Shoulderstand (Salamba Sarvangasana) and legs up the wall pose (Viparita Karani) are much safer. However, now that you have injured your neck like this, I can't recommend shoulderstand or plow in the future.

In order to tell if there is structural damage to the cervical spine, you will need an X-ray and possibly an MRI. Paul has often mentioned contraindications concerning inversions in his writings and lectures. The last thing you need is a lecture from me or any other Yoga teacher.

You might want to try a topical analgesic before you go to bed. My suggestion would be Tiger Balm, but is you don't have it Deep Heat, Icy Hot, Ben Gay, etc. will serve as a temporary relief. These are not a cure, but may help you sleep anf you might want to take a pain killer such as Tylenol, Advil, etc.

Again, these aren't cures, but you should sleep better. If you wake up and it's gone after using a topical analgesic and pain killer, you know it is mostly muscular pain. If the pain persists visit your doctor ASAP.

Inversions have many health benefits, the ability of an individual to receive those benefits depends as much on their capacity to comfortably hold these sometimes difficult postures. No inverted yoga postures should be attempted without preparatory asanas. unfortunately, there is always potential that an injury in the neck area, can result from headstand or shoulderstand.

Please let us know how you are doing.

Om Shanti,

Priyah

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February 13, 2009 - 9:52 pm
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Dear Carina,

Priyah is right. Neck injuries can happen as a result of head stand or shoulder stand. If the pain is very bad and it continues, see your doctor or an emergency room. There are many possiblities. This could be a mild sprain or something more. Please let's not think about more. Get a professional opinion.

Priyah gave you good advice, but as she mentioned if this becomes chronic pain, you must take care of your neck. I don't think head stand or shoulder stand would be wise choices for your personal hatha yoga practice after this. There are way too many nerves wired between the cervical vertebrae for you to take chances with. Children do these things but adults become painfully aware of the consequences.

There will be yoga teachers who disagree with extra precautions. I met a yoga teacher who was very proud she taught students over 70 to perform Shirshasana. Ego is like a drug. Teachers with ego are worse. This teacher could cause a student to go blind, have a stroke or fracture cervical vertebrae. I hope and pray you only have a mild sprain. You are in my prayers tonight.

Namaste,

Hamed

PS: Below is a quote from Paulji.

Quote:
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 gs wrong.

The solution: Do not teach students who you have not talked to before class. A students 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 students ability to safely perform an inverted asana, because of a health issue, you should omit it or insist on a doctors note.

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February 13, 2009 - 11:55 pm
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Hi Carina,

This happens more than most people know. If you are young, you may luck out. It could be many things. It could be a muscle spasm in the neck. If the pain stays for too long it could be the cervical spine is fused. It could be a herniated disc. This happens from headstands. If you ever decide to do it again get someone to look at your spine with an X-ray first. If the pain gs away in a few days consider yourself very lucky. If not, see the professionals.

Peace,

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February 14, 2009 - 9:18 am
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thanks a lot for your replies, wishes and prayers!

without taking any pain killer, today i already feel much better! (which i'm soooo grateful for...) still i'm a little bit limited in my range of movement (as i do not want to work against my pain, i'm just giving my neck the rest that it obviously needs now), but no comparison to yesterday.

i tell you i've surely learned my lesson, as i'm gonna be VERY careful with my body now (especially my spine). you are right that there should be more information and awareness about the possible injuries (because i see now that really a lot severe things can happen; things that no teacher really informed me about).

also the information you can find about headstand in yoga books, they usually only talk about the benefits, e.g. "the sivananda companion to yoga" talks about it as "one of the most important and powerful beneficial postures for both body and mind. practised regularly, it will help prevent back problems. mastering the headstand requires no great strength. it is largely a matter of conquering your fears and believing you can do it."

i even went to a headstand workshop where i was taught the different steps of moving in and out of this posture "correctly", but no warning about dangers and possible injuries.

maybe i also felt that as a prospective yoga teacher i "have" to be able to do "one of the most important asanas" and i thought it's mainly about conquering my fears. but now i see i have to be much more careful and treat my body wisely, although i also don't want to be in fear now when it comes to my hatha yoga practice... but i'm "shocked" now by this incident and just don't want to do anything "wrong" as i see how fragile and sensitive the human body can be...

namaste,

and thanks so much for your help -

carina

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February 14, 2009 - 4:06 pm
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Namaskar Carina,

It is a big relief to read that you are feeling better. It's true that some texts and workshops downplay the dangers of Shirshasana. Most of the teachers who brush over this subject don't teach yoga on a therapeutic level. I don't want to pick on any style, but the general approach to inversions is careless at best.

For example - pictures of pregnant Yogini's performing headstands, demonstrates carelessness for the best welfare of the baby. However, this is a good example of sensationalism in photography. Who gets excited about a practitioner showing a gentle restorative pose? Nobody ds. So, we're kind of slaves to our own need to see the fantastic.

I really hope that you recover and you continue to feel better. I'm so glad you learned and hopefully, you got more out of it than just pain.

Om Shanti,

Priyah

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February 15, 2009 - 10:00 am
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dear priyah,

especially in our society a lot of people associate yoga with sensational poses, showing off with incredible flexibility or things like a pregnant woman doing headstand. it creates a kind of "wow" effect and that's the picture most people have in mind when they think of yoga.

but that makes it even more important to slow down and work the basics properly, as there lies so much benefit in these "unspectacular" poses while in the more sensational ones there are many hidden risks that are often not obvious as the ones who can perform it seem to do it with so much ease. we tend to forget that things like that take time and that one must be well prepared to get out the benefits instead of injuries.

by the way, today i again feel better, pain is nearly gone! if i would have known about the possible injuries in headstand before, i would have never treated my body that careless. but maybe there's a reason why this happened now, maybe something worse might have happened if i would have continued...

but now i'm thinking about how to continue with a reasonable yoga practice. i really want to take good care of my spine (as this is anyway a part of my body that tends to be problematic, it often "cracks", especially my upper back) and i don't want to put it at risk again. what exercises would you recommend and which ones should i leave out (of course headstand, shoulderstand, plow)? (i'm 23 years old and the rest of my body is in good health condition.)

namaste,

carina

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February 15, 2009 - 4:53 pm
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Namaskar Carina,

I just called Paul on his cell today about this and had a lengthy discussion. He will be writing an article related to this thread in the next newsletter.

Here are some ideas: For now, please, please wait til your neck is fully recovered, but you could perform Legs up the wall (Viparita Karani) as your inversion for now. You'll still get all of the beautiful benefits of an inversion with no risk.

Later, Dolphin, Half headstand, and Fish should be fine. I know that Paul has many video projects on the drawing board this year such as: meditation, classical pranayam, contraindications, physical adjustments to students, modifications, advanced use of props, and more.

For now, invest your time in research of every asana and pranayam you practice. There is a little risk in most of them, but Shirshasana should come with a large warning label. If any teacher dsn't believe it, she has not done her homework.

Bless You - Thank God you are fine!!!

Om Shanti Dear One,

Priyah

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February 15, 2009 - 10:42 pm
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Dear Carina,

You are in good hands with Priyah's advice. It is with much happiness that I read you are feeling better. You did all the right things as far as you knew. It is upsetting to read that the organizers of the workshop for headstands failed to mention the many contraindications related to this popular yoga posture.

Under ideal conditions, headstand is safe, but there are many people who fall into the not so ideal category. Example: bone problems, blood pressure, heart problems, eye problems, sinus problems, pregnancy, previous stroke, etc. I'm sure I forgot something, so anyone else please feel free to add your opinions.

I would love to read an opposing opinion from a Yoga teacher who believes headstand is a rite of passage and a completely safe asana. For the sake of an open Yoga forum, I beg those teachers who coax their students to perform headstand to tell us why they believe it is absolutely safe. It is agreed that inversions have benefits, but not at the risk of creating trauma.

Namaste,

Hamed

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February 17, 2009 - 8:56 am
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Hi Everyone:

This is a very valuable thread. Most people approach headstand with some anticipation. I know a fantastic teacher who refuses to show headstands to students unless they have been with her for years. The reasons are all listed above my post, but students quit because they see no value in warm ups, preparation, warnings, or a medical consultation!

If yoga were all about taking risks, hype, ego puffing and so forth, we could skip class and go sky diving. I have nothing against sky diving or jumping off the side of a bridge, but some yogis and yoginis have completely missed the point of attending a yoga class. Speaking from personal experience - For the most part it's the yoginis who take the big risks in yoga. It might be that while yoga attracts hordes of women, it attracts less egotistical males.

Peace,

Lea

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February 17, 2009 - 5:48 pm
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It is worth noting that the article in today's newsletter mentioned a type of stroke called, "arterial dissection." This same form of stroke could happen as an after effect of a whip lash in an auto accident or from a chiropractic adjustment to the neck.

Hence, the reason to look at these activities with caution, but your chances of getting arterial dissection from headstand are about one in 100,000. This doesn't make me feel better or worse about Shirshasana. It just makes me aware of the hazard.

With so many baby boomers on blood pressure medication it might be prudent to reconsider sharp inversions anyway. By the way, you can eat right, avoid drinking, smoking, and drugs and still get high blood pressure. I know and doctors know too! Docs don't want to give patients excuses, but when you age there are system failures. We weren't built to last forever.

Hence, moderation is the key in all things. Eat, walk, sleep, drink and practice yoga with moderation as your guide. A headstand after 55 is a nice pic but not if I end up for a stay in a nursing home.

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uabxu

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February 4, 2011 - 12:39 am
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Thank you for all the responses to uabxu. I am still alive and kicking but I have continued with headstand since. I do understand how BP increases on inversion. What I have not said earlier is that I usually do headstand after I have done my workout in gardening or after golf. At that time, my BP measures about 105/70. I should be doing more research, but will not do headstand until I hear a yoga master's opinion. I agree the risk is higher with age and HBP. Thank you all so far.

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uabxu

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January 13, 2011 - 5:28 am
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I am 65yo. I have been practising yoga on and off since I was 18yo. I was looking for some assurance or certainty about the risk of headstand and came across this forum.

I have done headstand on and off since I was young until about 10 years ago when friends started to warn me about the risk of headstand, particularly as I have high blood pressure. I have started to do headstand again once or twice a week for the past one month. I like it because I feel invigorated from the up-side-down balancing exercise. But because of the contraindication from friends and the Internet, I am a little disappointed and am a little afraid if the much higher blood pressure during headstand in my head could actually force a stroke.

Is there a teacher out there who can tell me more from personal experience?

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January 18, 2011 - 12:39 am
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uabxu, If you like testing kismet, go for it and stand on your head. Why listen to doctors or friends? As a Yoga teacher I can tell you exactly what you see on this thread. You have free will my friend. You can be head strong or read the obvious.

You are 65 years of age and have HBP! Why would you ever consider standing on your head? No doctor would approve your increasing the odds of having a stroke. Children take chances because they do not know, adults take chances for the thrill of taking a risk. If you are a thrill seeker, you can play, but you are taking a great risk.

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January 18, 2011 - 8:05 pm
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Hi Ruhi,

There are nicer ways to say what you did. Uabxu's friends are concerned for a reason. Although the answer may seem obvious to you, Uabxu is only asking a question about the danger of inversions in Yoga for a person who has HBP is 65 and has had HBP for a while now. I agree with Paul here. Uabxu would be better to hear the dangers directly from a physician.

Hari Om

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January 19, 2011 - 1:01 pm
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uabxu - If you picture the fluids in your body, Think about pressure increased at the bottom. This happens when we stand and many people get varicose veins. These are veins that become enlarged due to pressure. Blood that pools on your legs can clot.

Now take eveything and turn it upside down. Blood and clots on the brain might seem like nothing to proud yogis, but a stroke or brain aneurysm is extremely serious; many people die from a ruptured aneurysm before they arrive to the hospital.

You said, "I have done headstand on and off since I was young until about 10 years ago when friends started to warn me about the risk of headstand, particularly as I have high blood pressure."

Your case (65 years with HBP for at least the past 10 years) is one where you should not do yoga head stands. Your doctor will verify this.

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January 19, 2011 - 7:17 pm
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Yoga is a relief from life that has mounting pressure of stress in daily situations. Surely, there are many asanas to choose from without endangering life and limb. Some yogis don't seem to pay adequate attention to rejuvenate the mind. They think standing on the head is the ULTIMATE yoga posture. Standing on your head is great for your ego and you'll live forever. Not so! More moderate styles of Yoga provide a holistic ray of hope to people at guided meditations, gentle yoga postures, and pranayam sessions.

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