Let the Yogi Beware!
Yesterday in yoga class the instructor, an experienced and thoughtful teacher, instructed the class in head stand. The class is a mixed level class composed of a some beginners and other strong students with regular practice and years of experience and strength. She was careful when teaching the pose using the wall and instructing set up of the pose.
I refrained! I chose another inversion pose... I practice yoga four times a week but I'm now very nervous about head stands after hearing the risks at a talk given by William Broad, author of The Science of Yoga given last week at the Larchmont Public Library.
Mr. Broad stated the risks for head stand and shoulder stand and they included a slight risk of stroke and cervical and neck injury. The Kripalu Center for Yoga and Health, where I trained, says contraindications for this pose include uncontrolled high or low pressure, glaucoma and detached retina. Yet no mention was made of these contraindications.
Teachers often start class by saying let your body be the guide and tell students to adapt poses as they need. But do most people know what that means? I often look around and see people straining to achieve a pose without proper alignment. My advice is to be gentle with yourself and never push yourself to do a pose like head stand without years of training. Also, make sure your teacher is trained at a school like Kripalu that takes the time to teach its teachers the risks and benefits of poses.