Yes, you read correctly. The idea of placing the fore head on the floor is foreign to so many, yet the safest way for the neck and the best way I have found to find ease in my “headstand” There is a natural lordodic curve to the neck that aids in the strength as well as the resilience of the spine.
When you flatten our the back of your neck to place the top of the head on the floor you lose the natural lordotic curve of the cervical spine and putt the neck into flexion which destabilizes the structural integrity of the neck. Then you add your body weight and you are in position for trouble. There should be an even spacing between each spinous process for safety and stability in the neck when doing headstands. When you take away the natural curve of the cervical spine, the spacing becomes irregular creating abnormal and unsafe stress on the facets, discks and the supporting tissue of the neck and upper body.
Many of the conditions of the neck today athletes face is from loss of the normal lordotic curve, not to mention the repeated compression to the head from tackles, head buts and the gravitational pull from jumping and running. We can reestablish the natural lordodic curve, strengthen and lengthen the neck and create more space by opening up the front (extension) of the spine, not by actions that drop the chin to the chest creating (flexion) actions that open up the space in the back of the spine risking disc bulges into the spinal column.
The natural curve in the neck not only allows for better shock absorption but also increases the weight bearing ability of the neck. As the facets lock into each other in a more natural way, the neck is more stable and better able to with stand the balanced weight of the body in the forearms and the forehead. there is a 60-40 shift between the weight and the more you ground down into the earth there is a natural lift and shift of the body up, it is here you find ease.
The head itself is already pretty heavy and it needs to be free to move in many angles. The natural lordotic curve allows for even distribution of weight along the vertebra and greater strength and stability.
Why then would you want to risk a headstand by taking out that natural lordotic curve?
As I work with Todays Athlete, I am finding that many problems in the neck stem from a weak upper body, tight Shoulders and upper back, not to mention poor posture. By performing headstand, or shall we say foreheadstand with the forehead on the floor as opposed to the center of the top of the skull, this lengthens the Cervical column, maintains the natural lordodic curve of the spine all of which aid in the weight bearing ability of the cervical spine.
Many yoga text state that headstands should be avoided by persons with cervical ailments, I can say from personal experience that this was not and is not the case for me. Performed correctly and in this manner my headstand practice actually helped improve my neck issues allowing the disc matter to move away from my spinal column and back into position where it belonged along with increase the strength in my upper body.
This theory was validated to me while in India, which is where I learned this approach to the headstand. Baggage porters can be seen everywhere carrying heavy loads on their heads, suffering little to no damage to the cervical spine. Yet the majority of people I know who have suffered a neck injury have never put much more then a hat on their head. It would seem the lack of exercise and strength of the neck is more detrimental then the weight bearing.
Maintaining spinal extension in the spine as we strengthen the muscles around the neck may be our greatest tool in avoiding and even self healing. The next time you hear a teacher ask you to place the top of the head on the floor, ask them why they are teaching a very advanced version of headstand that requires strong neck muscles and can cause injury to someone who has not yet developed those muscles.
This is an impressive no handed version of headstand. The point begin ……..? Most of todays athletes are going to give up on the notion of being able to do headstand as this is not only not possible to most, but can be extremely dangerous.
The intention of Yoga For Today’s athlete is to teach a yoga that is functional and that helps heal and restore the body form years of abuse. It is my effort to break the notion that yoga is for the flexible, the balanced the strong, the young and the bendy. It is a practice available to EveryBody and is going to look different from one body to the next body.
See you, on the mat.