Before I completed my 200-Hour Yoga Teacher Training, I had so many ideas on what I wanted to achieve through my training. I dreamed of doing perfect Headstands, Shoulder Stands (which I was already doing pretty well), Hand Stands, and whatever else inverted stands you can think of. I was thinking, “I’m gonna be so hard core with all the cool poses I’ll be able to do… and I bet my body’s gonna be pretty ripped!” Two years (and over 600 hours of teaching) later, I laugh at my thought process back then!
Towards the end of my teacher training, I was involved in a bad car accident where I was rear-ended by a pizza delivery boy who was going about 40 mph and texting (or looking down at his phone) at the same time. My SUV was totaled and I was left with a severe case of whiplash. I went through months of chiropractic care and even received a cortisone shot as well as went to a Orthopedic Doctor, but I still have neck pain to this day. I’m sure I didn’t have a perfect curve in my cervical spine (the spine in the neck area) before the accident, but any curve that it had went out the door and I now have two bulging discs in my C5 and C6/C7.
Majority of us have lost some (or all) of the natural curve in the cervical spine from sitting behind a desk and staring at our computer screen (our heads start to protrude towards the screen, chronically straightening the curve in the neck) and from texting (most people look down toward their phones to text).
Okay, getting back to Inversions…
Inversions like Headstands put too much pressure in the already-straightened cervical spine, causing compression in the discs. Shoulder Stands (see picture on the left) straighten out the neck which eventually contributes to loss of curve in the cervical spine. Handstands are probably the safest pose in regards to spinal health, but the shoulder joints and wrists were not made to bear the weight of our bodies (minus the weight of the hands and arms) for an extended period of time. Being that I already have an injured rotator cuff, I try not to overuse it doing full weight-bearing activities.
Although the benefits of inversions are wonderful (improves circulation, energizes, detoxifies, improves immunity), the risks seem to outweigh the benefits, especially when there are other poses that can be done with similar benefits.
My ego still misses the head stands and other inversions, but my higher self (and neck) are perfectly happy with skipping those poses in my traditional yoga practice. Now, inversions in aerial yoga is another story! 🙂