Tuesday, October 05, 2010


Thank you for your comment, Denise. I fear my answer would be too long, so I make a post out of it.

Headstands: The first headstand appears in the closing sequence in the Asthanga series. It is held for 25 breaths according to the book by Sri K.Pattabhi Jois (and Lino Miele) "Astanga Yoga". In the earlier years it was held up to 1 hour by one yogini. I have this information from the book Guruji. You can get it, click on the link.

Is doing headstand dangerous? Can I injure myself (mainly the neck)? I cannot imagine.
Please have a look at the picture above. Sharath is the model.
- In the left picture you see that more or less the front is touching the floor. This is btw a trick to get into this pose and to hold it more easily. It can also take away the fear to try headstand. With the front on the floor  it is almost impossible to fall backwards (just thinking of Debra). More important is that the weight is on the arms and not on the head.
- Sharath even lifts the head, see right picture. Then there is no pressure at all on the neck. This requires  more strength.
When I do headstand the main weight is on the arms, not on the head. The head is touching the floor, that's it. Lately I tried to lift the head, which is a challenge.

I'm 51 and I intend to do headstand till 90 or so.

Fear: Here and then we are confronted with our fears when practicing Ashtanga yoga: we fear to fall, we fear to break our bones, we fear to get injured and what ever. This is often rather unlikely. Also when we fall it needn't mean that we get injured. To face the fear and to overcome it is in my opinion part of the practice. It helps us to grow, to become courageous. I know  fear as well when I practice. It's now no more the fear to do headstand, but other poses cause fear. Urdhva dhanurasana is a classic fear pose, at least to drop back from standing position.
Respect your fear. Don't let your fearful thoughts decide what to do and what not to do. Get information, try to perform the asanas safely. Practice, approach the fearful pose step by step, and headstand (like most other poses) is doable at (almost) every age.

When doing Ashtanga yoga we are confronted with our personalities. Some have more fears, some less.

I asked my bf if he has ever experienced fear when he was playing soccer. I mean there are so many injuries that happen when even young people play soccer. He never felt fear. Fear has not always something to do with reality. Oh my and yesterday I read that our Mr Schweinsteiger is injured and that he won't be able to play the next times.

The headstands of the second series are held only for 5 breaths. I asked M, my yoga teacher if they are dangerous. He emphasized that they are held for 5 breaths only. The weight is only for a fracture of a second  on the head alone. We use a blanket under the head and this gives stability. It's always a personal decision if one wants to do it or not. I want it.

PS: I once got a bruise on my upper leg, because I fell against the wall. My yoga room is rather small. I survived. I was a bit shocked, that was it.

Your experiences re headstands are surely appreciated. Please comment.


Grimmly said...

Hi Ursula, where did you find that Sharath picture don't think I've seen it before.

Ursula said...

Oh, have I not mentioned it. It's from the book by P. Jois and Lino Miele "Astanga yoga".

Grimmly said...

So it is, different from how I remembered it but just checked my copy and it's the same.

Donald said...

Dear Ursula,
I am 60 years old and a 3rd year student of Ashtanga. I practice headstands almost every day with no problem and can stay up for the full 25 breath count. The only problem I had occurred years ago when I would hold my breath. That increased the blood pressure in my head and caused me to burst superficial blood vessels in my eyes! (Subconjunctival hemorrhage) Once I began to breathe regularly the problem never occurred again.

My other daily practice is to read your blog. You are a pleasure and inspire me. Thank you.

Ursula said...

Dear Donald,
Thank you very much for your comment for several reasons.

High blood pressure can surely be an indicator to practice inversions carefully. I loved to read that breathing helped you to do it anyway.

I am so sure that you have encouraged with your comment many Ashtangis to give headstand another try (despite, age, fear or whatever).

Handstand is doable.

And oh, smiling, thank you for reading my blog....:)

Anonymous said...

Oh, breathing with headstand, very good advice.. thank you Donald. And thank you Ursula for all the encouragement of headstand. Question: What asana makes you feel the best afterwards? Is it headstand? I am finding (now that the fear of headstand has ended for me) that it hurts my neck - I really don't enjoy it - I prefer shouldstand.

Ursula said...

Dear Debra, there are surely a lot of other inversions with the same effect. It needn't to be headstand.

What makes me feel best. Simply to hang forward is a body position that I like a lot.....:)

denise said...

ursula, thank you for this headstand pose post, it really help a lot (and also the comments of others yogis that follow your blog). I'm getting strong for the headstand!

vickey sharma said...

Hi everyone, i am 32 years old male from India.i am doing ph.d in law. I am practicing headstand since 2008. My longest time in the pose is 45 minutes in one go.the secret is deep breathing.and one should do shavaasna after it.