Wednesday, 15 June 2016

Protecting your neck in inversions

When we practice Shoulder Stand our necks are in flexion that is tilted forward stretching the muscles and ligaments at the back of the neck.  If we have any tightness in the neck or shoulders,  injury may result - muscle strain, strain on the neck ligaments or in the worst case scenario cervical disc injury.  It is for this reason that in my videos we usually practice half  Shoulder Stand with a wall or supported by two blocks.  Even so Shoulder Stand is best avoided if you have any neck issues  (other contra-indications include heart problems, high blood pressure, glaucoma or when you are menstruating).  Do not worry if Shoulder Stand is not for you -  safer inversions such as Legs up the Wall have the same benefits so it's not worth risking injury.  

If you have no health issues that contra-indicate Shoulder Stand you could try practicing it with a folded blanket, provided that you warm up the neck, shoulders and back first.  The blanket should be placed under your shoulders so that your head and neck are off the blanket.  This has the effect of opening up the front of the neck.  Never turn your head while practicing Shoulder Stand.  

Shoulder Stand pose

To practice Shoulder Stand place a blanket on your mat.  Your mat should be positioned with the short edge to the wall.  Sit with your knees bent with your right side next to the wall. Swivel round so that your legs are up the wall, and the blanket under your shoulders so that your head and neck are on the mat (you might have to adjust the position of the blanket. Roll the tops of your feet to the wall, lifting your lower back away from the mat.  Support your lower back with your hands.  For Half Shoulder Stand straighten the right leg then the left.  If you can do so without strain take your right leg away from the wall then the left as you walk your hands up your back so that your toes are above your face.  
To come out of the pose release your legs back to the wall, remove your hands from your back and slowly with control lower your spine back to the mat.  Roll onto your right side with your knees drawn up towards your chest and rest here for a few breaths before coming up.  

Headstand should only be practiced with the help of a teacher if you are not used to practicing  the pose.  For a good alternative try this Dolphin Pose variation.  It strengthens the arms and shoulders in preparation for headstand and has the same benefits as headstand for calming the mind.

Dolphin pose

Come onto all fours and lower onto your forearms.  Interlace your fingers, breathe in, tuck your toes and as you breathe out lift your hips high.  Press down into the mat with your arms.  Walk your feet forward if you can.  If your head touches the mat, press more firmly into your arms so that there is no weight on the head.  You may also support your head on a block. To come out of the pose, breathe in, lower your knees to the mat, breathe out and take your bottom back to your heels for a Child's Pose.

Please see also, 
'Protecting your neck in seated twists'-

'Protecting your neck in standing poses'-

'Protecting your neck in standing poses'-

Be safe, be happy, 

Janet x 

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