The mainstay is considered the ultimate discipline in yoga. Many swear by the improved blood circulation it should bring. A theory that is apparently outdated. With the right technique and the use of a headstand stool, regular exercises can still strengthen the mental fitness and the upper muscles!
In yoga, the headstand belongs to the family of inverted positions along with the handstand, forearm stand and shoulder stand. There are two different techniques: Shirshasana and Kapalasana. Unlike Shirshasana, the forearms of the Kapalasana do not lie on the floor, but the head and the two supported palms form the corners of an equilateral triangle. Despite all the reverse positions, yoga practitioners still swear that the headstand has a positive effect on blood circulation and is therefore healthy. Some studies seem to put the assumption out of the way. Nevertheless, an ordinary headstand is worthwhile and has several other positive effects on health. But it also carries some risks if done wrong …
Myth increase in cerebral blood flow
“Headstand improves blood flow to the brain” is still a persistent motto among yoga practitioners. The logic behind: Even our blood can not escape the effects of gravity and flows to the brain in larger quantities when we stand upside down. However, it is not that simple. For the pressure with which the blood is pumped into the arteries is so great that each organ receives more than enough blood even against gravity. In addition, “more blood” and “more blood pressure” do not automatically mean “more blood flow”. In order for an organ to be well supplied with blood, not only must blood flow to it, but the used blood must also be able to run away. In addition, our body system always does everything it can to compensate for the “tidal wave” of blood and to maintain the normal circulatory state. This means that our cerebral metabolism ensures that cerebral blood flow remains virtually constant under normal conditions.1
Also interesting: The 8 steps of yoga according to Pantanjali
Headstand does not increase blood flow to the brain, study says
Also, a study that analyzed the effect of Sirshasana on the blood flow in the brain using an ultrasound scan showed that headstand does not increase the blood flow to the brain and therefore does not provide any particularly healthy benefits. To do this, blood flow was measured in 20 men and women aged 10 to 59 years while performing a headstand: 17 subjects were examined in Spain at an altitude of 2000 meters, while the remaining three subjects were observed at sea level. The result: The diameter of the carotid artery (it supplies the eye as well as the brain) remained almost unchanged, and contrary to popular belief, Sirshasana did not increase blood flow to the brain.2
Also interesting: 2 exercises for strong core muscles
Headstand keeps your back healthy
Although the said study rejects the supposedly greatest positive effect of a headstand on health, there are numerous others. The key word is: body tension! On the one hand, a headstand strengthens the muscles of the back, shoulder and lower body enormously. Because the body weight no longer rests on the pelvis and legs when turned over, but is shifted to the shoulders and, if necessary, the head, a headstand relieves the entire upper body. An ideal way to prevent back pain. In addition, the relief fracture is also a real benefit to the intervertebral discs.
What is really true about the mainstay myth: it promotes thinking and has a mentally stimulating effect. The inversion exercise depends on the right technique and requires a certain level of coordination and concentration. Not only a good exercise for the physical but also mental balance.
Also interesting: The many health benefits of going meditation
Headstand supports healthy lungs
In addition, it has a strong meditative character: the turning exercise does not only require a high degree of concentration. It even strengthens the lungs. Due to the fact that the internal organs weigh the diaphragm under the headstand, the lung space is compressed and you breathe more slowly and deeper. And as researchers at Massachusetts General Hospital have been able to show, regular relaxation techniques such as yoga or meditation make you less likely to get sick. For this purpose, 4,000 subjects who actively practiced yoga, meditation, or other relaxation techniques were followed for eight years and compared with 13,000 other study participants who did not do so. Among general practitioners, the use of medical services fell by 43 percent.3
Also interesting: 10 minutes training – core training with focus on the back
Can a booth be dangerous?
Like everything else in life, there are two sides to the coin when it comes to head start. Some even say that it has a higher risk of injury than a handstand. For example, abrupt neck movements can damage the arteries in the brain, which in rare cases can even lead to a stroke. There is also a risk of nerve damage when the neck is hyperextended or the head is shifted to one side.
For this reason, the head and neck area should be specially protected. Study results suggest that with average experienced yoga practitioners, the head and neck are still loaded with about 40-48% of body weight below the headstand. Slow, controlled entry into the headstand reduces the likelihood of excessive weight bearing and reduces unhealthy cervical extension. But don’t worry – if you take the essential aspects into account during the execution, you are basically on the safe side. A&O is a slow and controlled access to the headstand as it puts less strain on the head and neck, reducing the likelihood of excessive weight bearing.
Is a principal worth it?
It can also pay to invest in a main stand stool – for a healthy execution of the capital. It makes it easier to crawl into the inverted position, ensures a safe hold and minimizes the risk of injury. Depending on the quality, the purchase costs between 30 and 150 euros.
Doing a headstand correctly – this is how it works
- Place your forearms parallel to the floor. About wide enough for you to grab your opposite elbow with your hands.
- Merge your fingers together and form a kind of triangle.
- Bring the front of your head slightly to the ground.
- Lift the pelvis and stretch the legs out (like a downward facing dog).
- Walk slowly with your feet against your nose as far as you can.
- Tighten your torso and pull your knees toward your chest. Do not lift your feet uncontrollably!
- Stretch one leg at a time and balance using the core muscles.
- Focus on sinking your forearms into the floor and engaging your shoulders (providing more stability).
- Stay in position for about ten breaths.
Common headstand faults
- Shoulders are pulled towards the ears to stand up
- no weight on the elbows
- with too much upward momentum
- You forget to keep breathing properly
- Eyes are closed (all balance exercises are easier with open eyes)
- The elbows are too far apart
- too much weight on the head, not enough on the arms
- crooked head, incorrect position of the neck
- hollow back or rounded back
- lateral skew
Also interesting: an expert shows exercises in how to effectively improve balance
Conclusion: If you rest, you are rusting
Although a headstand, contrary to popular belief, does not improve blood flow to the brain, it is certainly worth turning your world upside down every now and then to do something healthy. The exercise strengthens the upper body and the deep muscles in the trunk and requires real concentration and coordination work. With regular use, the inverted posture can especially prevent back pain and you can enjoy its meditative nature. However, as you risk real damage to the neck and head area if you do it wrong, you should study the technique intensively beforehand. A head-standing stool is actually worth it here.
- 1. Thews / Vaupel (2019). Vegetative physiology.
- 2. Minvaleev, RS, Bogdanov, RR, Bahner DP, Levitov, AB (2019). Headstand (Sirshasana) does not increase blood flow to the brain. J Aging complement Med.
- 3. Stahl JE, Dossett ML, LaJoie AS, Denninger JW, Mehta DH, Goldman R, Fricchione GL, Benson H (2015). Relaxation response and resilience training and its effect on health resource utilization. PLoS One.