Is This Common Yoga Move What’s Causing Your Headaches?

Exactly how being upside down messes with your head...


Leigh Cann |

Love yoga? But find you’re suffering from headaches every now and again after a class? You might have the same problem I’ve been experiencing…

Headaches After Headstands

I’ve been practicing yoga for years on and off, and was always able to do headstands, with no complaint. I suffer from migraines, and had read that inversions were supposed to be good for headache suffers, so couldn’t understand why, over the past few years, I was experiencing more migraines after headstands. Could it have something to do with my low blood pressure?

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“There’s a lot more to it [than blood pressure],” says Hermanus-based chiropractor Dr Chad Gordon. “It also depends on the health, fitness and age of the person, and their present state.” But before we go any further, Gordon wants to get one thing straight: “It’s not normal to stand on your head.” Here’s why…

“It’s Not Normal To Stand On Your Head”

“Your neck is made to bear the weight of your head, not your full body. Our heads also don’t do too well in an inverted position as head pressure builds up,” explains Gordon. “The spinal structures of the neck will take tremendous strain because they aren’t capable of the excess weight. Your muscles will compensate to accomplish a headstand, so [the move] in turn will also start to influence the muscle structures – not just the joints and discs.”

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And there’s more… “The vertebral artery runs through the cervical vertebra, and at the very top it becomes vulnerable to downward pressure/compression. On top of this, the pressure of an upside down body will increase skull pressure.” Skull pressure!?

The Solution?

So, should you just stop doing headstands? “Most poses like this rest the body onto the arms, which, if done correctly and for a short amount of time, may be okay. But the problem arises when you don’t do the move correctly and the weight goes onto the neck and head structures,” says Gordon.

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“The older people are, the more vulnerable they will become not only to the potentially incorrect position, but to the head pressure too. The increased blood pressure is more to do with the upside down pressure, not increased blood pressure from the heart and narrowed arteries.”

If you’re going to do it, make sure you’re doing it right. And that doesn’t mean a quick lesson from your yoga friend, or any random yoga instructor. Make sure the instructor you ask has legit experience in the headstand specifically and understands the biology involved in the movement. If you’re not entirely comfortable with their explanation, seek out a more qualified yogi. Because, as you can tell from Gordon’s concerns, we’re dealing with some precious body parts here…

READ MORE ON: Headaches Health Health Advice Health Conditions Yoga

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