P.S. – If you absolutely must, there is a way… read on.
It’s a staple in the asana diet. Forearms on the floor, interlaced fingers confidently cupping your skull as you sneak your feet forward until they softly lift skyward to achieve “The King” of Yogasanas: Sirsasana.
With all of its benefits, everyone should be doing it, right? Well…kinda.
If you read last month’s post, you know that bones and joints (not muscle) dictate your end range of movement. Bone proportion can impact your ability to do certain variations of postures safely and correctly. Although shoulder mobility is also important for a safe Sirsasana, based strictly on proportion, if your upper arm bone (humerus) isn’t long enough, you could be compressing your cervical spine (neck bones) and setting yourself up for dysfunction and long term injury.
Try this simple Yoga Tune Up® check-in which can be done before you put yourself, or your students, into a headstand (Sirsasana I): “Blockhead“: Grab a block or a water bottle between your palms and straighten your arms overhead, then bend the elbows and lower the block towards the back of your neck.
If your elbows are straight up, higher than your head, then your upper arm bones are long enough for you to take the majority of weight bearing off your neck as you balance lightly on your head. If your elbows are below your head, guess where all of your body weight is going?
As you try to find the right spot on your skull for the balance, you send your neck bones into alternating flexion and extension with your full body weight bearing down on your discs, nerve branches and muscles that will be straining to keep your neck stable. Bad with extra bad sauce on top!
But there is hope. Thanks to the gifts bestowed upon us by BKS Iyengar, we have many tools to help those of the short-boned clan. Blankets must be stacked under the forearms to make up for the missing length so the weight can be transferred from the neck into the shoulder girdle where it belongs. Then the pose becomes stable, the neck spacious, and the head becomes a fine-tuner for balance rather than the focal point.
So pat yourself on the back with both hands and congratulate yourself on healthy, stable inversions from this day forward.