in Be Yoga

Safe Headstand Variations for the Neck

if you have a neck injury or strain, but do not want to give the many benefits of the headstand asana, try these 3 “headless” headstands variations.

Getting upside down is an important part of a yoga practice, and one of my favorite parts. Being upside down gives your circulatory system a break from working against gravity to move blood up your body.

Inversions can be energizing and at the same time relaxing

It also can help boost your immunity by helping lymph fluid move more efficiently to the lymph nodes to be cleansed of toxins.

Inversions can be energizing and at the same time relaxing, depending on what type of inversion you are practicing. Headstands, handstands and forearm stands are energizing inversions, and shoulder stands and legs up the wall are considered cooling inversions.

A problem with some inversions is that many people with shoulder and neck issues should not practice inversions such as headstands at all, as standing on one’s head can put a lot of pressure on the cervical vertebrae if practiced incorrectly, or headstands can be harmful simply if one’s body proportions (arm length vs. neck length) are not right for headstand.

The following “headless headstand” variations allow you to be in a fully inverted headstand position, but with absolutely no weight on the head. They also provide a nice lengthening of the neck muscles and can help relieve neck and shoulder tension.

“HEADSTAND” WITH TWO CHAIRS (SIRSASANA) 

This is a great inversion to practice at home, where you probably have a couple kitchen or folding chairs that are the same size. If your chairs don’t have padding, add a bath towel or folded blanket to the seat of each chair.

Headless-Headstand-On-Chairs_IN-ARTICLE

To get into the posture

Place the chairs facing one another against a bare wall. If you have hardwood floors, be sure to put a yoga mat under the chairs so they don’t slide. Place the chairs close enough to one another that they are just a little wider than the width of your neck. Bend over and bring your head down in front of the chairs, and slide your neck through the gap between the chairs;

You won’t be able to bring your head through from above, as the chairs should be too close together. Place your hands on the edges of the chairs for support, then either float up using your core and pressing into the hands, or gently kick up. You can rest your feet against the wall and move your arms to rest through the backs of the chairs, or you can hold yourself in balance with your feet away from the wall. Hold for 5-10 breaths, or a few minutes if you are comfortable.

“HEADSTAND” WITH 6 BLOCKS

This variation is good to do in your yoga studio, as long as there are plenty of blocks for everyone. It takes up less room than the two chairs variation, and not every studio has chairs available as props, but most studios have blocks. This variation feels a bit less stable than the two chairs variation, but it is still effective.

Headless-Headstand-with-Blocks_IN-ARTICLE

To get into the posture

Make two piles of three blocks, and place their short edges firmly against the wall. Place them close enough together that your ears will touch the blocks when your head is between them. Bend forward and place your head between the blocks and your shoulders on top of the blocks, with your upper back touching the wall. Press your hands into the blocks and gently kick up. Stay for 5-10 breaths, or a couple minutes.

Note: if you have a long neck or if your studio has small blocks, you may need eight blocks instead of six. Stack up enough blocks that the top of your head is not touching the floor.

“HEADSTAND” ACTIVE VARIATION 

This variation with three blocks mimics an actual headstand more closely, as you will be holding all your bodyweight in your arms. It is also a nice shoulder opener.

Active-Headless-Headstand-With-Blocks_IN-ARTICLE

To get into the posture

Place one block the tall way a couple inches away from the wall, then stack two more blocks on top of it the short way, touching the wall. Interlace your fingers behind the block on the floor, and lean your upper back into the blocks. Bring weight firmly into your outer hands and elbows; your head should not touch the floor. Gently kick up into a headstand, either allowing your feet to rest on the wall or balancing with your feet away from the wall.

Note: Never kick up to any variation of headstand if your head is on the floor! This can be dangerous to the neck!

“HEADSTAND” WITH A HEADSTAND BENCH

If you have a headstand bench in your yoga studio or home, you can get upside down easily without having to pile up props.

Headless-Headstand-on-Bench_IN-ARTICLE

To get into the posture

Place your head between the “arms” of the bench, and hold on to the handles with your hands. You can place the tops of your shoulders in the middle of the bench arms, or scoot farther back into the back until your upper back meets the back of the bench for more support. You can kick up or float up as in previous variations, or to get upside down slowly, place your knees on the arms of the bench, and then bring one leg up, then the other. You can balance away from the wall, or let your feet rest on the wall.

Happy inverting!

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