Sivananda Yoga calls the headstand a ‘cure for all diseases’. It is claimed that the headstanding posture benefits the endocrine glands and the digestive system.
It helps to pump blood quickly to the heart and improves the flow of fluids through the lymphatic system channels, helping the body to absorb nutrients and eliminate waste more effectively. However, we are not aware of any actual scientific evidence for this.
There are also risks to damage to the neck and eyes (including loss of vision) when performing this posture and it is recommended that modifications are used, such as using blocks to support the shoulders, and that it is not performed by those over 50 years. See references below.
When performing a headstand the crown of the head should be on the floor supported by your hands interlocked behind your head. There should be no discomfort on the neck. If you feel any pain on the neck come out of the posture immediately.
Your elbows should be at about 80 degrees angle. Concentrate on your breathing and focus on the solar plexus for balance.
Keep the pressure away from the head supporting the body weight mainly with the forearms. Hold this posture for about 3 to 5 minutes to obtain maximum benefit. To come out drop the legs down gradually and rest in the child pose for at least 10 seconds.
The Dolphin posture push up is a good way to strengthen the arms in preparation for the headstand.
The headstand is a good way to finish your yoga practice, followed by the lotus posture.
The headstand is contraindicated for people suffering from high blood pressure, glaucoma and other eye problems, neck pain, excess weight and osteoporosis.
See our Step-by-Step Instructions on How to do the Headstand for a complete guide on how to do the headstand yoga posture.
Headstands and health – some research
Even though the yogi masters were sure of its health benefits, the scientific community is less keen. Some research has shown that prolonged periods in the posture is bad for the eyes and others have recognized the strain on the neck, especially when entering and leaving the posture.
“Progression of glaucoma associated with the Sirsasana (headstand) yoga posture” by MJ Gallardo (and others) 2006. Advances in Therapy.
“Sirsasana (headstand) technique alters head/neck loading : considerations for safety” by Rachel Elizabeth Hector, 2012.
“… modifying headstand technique may reduce some of the mechanical risks of headstand.” Rachel Hector.
“Central retinal vein occlusion following Sirsasana (headstand posture)” by Nikunj J Shah and Urmi N Shah, Indian J Ophthalmol. 2009 Jan-Feb; 57(1): 69–70.
“Instructors suggest avoiding Sirsasana in patients with hypertension, congestive heart failure, berry aneurysms, and those above 50 years of age.”