Sunday, March 13, 2011

Headstand: lifelong mistakes

I recall, when I corrected a girl in at the last ATTC camp in her headstand (she got everything correct in the theory paper, which just proves!) she was very annoyed with me. She was unable to get into it, so as I eased her (or so I thought) She clamoured down (from the pose) to raise her voice at me,  making it loudly clear she did not think much of my correction. She announced loudly that I was jerking her about.  It was a good thing for me --  as a learning experience as a teacher --  because, it humbled my arrogance on several counts:
  •  that I feel proud that I am amongst a handful of  instructors in Mumbai who actually like to teach the headstand.
  • that I am proud that I can coax and cajole students, including extremely anxious and fearful ones, to attempt it.
  • that I am proud that I can actually locate the exact error a student is initiating in the headstand and can make it clear to them.
So, when that girl (auntyji, actually, from Delhi:) raised her voice, suddenly, in a flash, I was stripped of all that arrogance. It was a very powerful moment for me, and I was glad for that... just how I cannot explain. But it was a very yoga moment for me, exposing me to myself. For that I am very grateful for that auntyji.

But since then, when I correct people (who already do the headstand I mean) I am always delicate about it:) I go about it delicately, trying to side-step their ego, because as a teacher who wishes to get across something, I am ok with some compromises I am required to make, which may include ego-sidestepping. Not everybody realises how much ego they carry on to their mat! And if there is one pose where the ego literally goes to the head, it is in the headstand:) (Oh, just an aside, but the lady never got the headstand till the course ended, so I also wonder:)

I realise there is a lot of ego in executing the headstand -- often this also comes in the way of the stragglers in an indirect way -- so I accomodate the ego, if I wish to teach it the right way:) Plus, I sincerely believe that I am not the one teaching it... that as when I start my class and I end it, I hand over the responsibility of my students to my Sadguru... I believe he keeps them safe, as they attempt the difficult stunts!!

Now for the headstand lessons:

Unfortunately, a bad headstand can create lifelong problems:
  • cervical spondylosis, if the neck is taking the brunt as in the first image, where the stomach pops out. A common mistake which can be rectified if the stomach is drawn in.
  • if the shoulders do not take the weight, and neck remains pressed down, the upper back can be `frozen', given painful shoulders, and again, neck pain.
  • if the legs hang out too much in the front (as in the second image), then the lower back takes the brunt, because it must hold up against the drag of the legs.
  • also, this creates contraction in the entire body. An static inversion like the headstand has to be relaxing, that comes when u find the center and stay there, allow subtle muscle mass like the fascia to strengthen up to this demand of gravitational drag. Instead u tense everything, creating a negative loop inside... I don't know what that does to u long-term, but cannot be anything positive I guess!
  • also, the control over entry and exit in the pose is compromised.
  • Plus, the meditative aspect of the pose is lost.Only when u rest for long in a pose without effort have you mastered it, and can use it to reach meditative states. This way, u are struggling and that can hardly be called meditation!
  • tilting to one side again stresses the opposite elbow and shoulder, creating tension along that side of the body. What it may do to the nostril flow is any body's guess! Remember pressure on one side (even a gentle one) makes the opposite nostril flow. So, if you are tilting to the left your right nostril is pushed into an overdrive and vice versa.
  • Jumping into the pose. Displaya and invites lack of kinesthetic intelligence, which is the natural wisdom of the body.
  • Coming down without control. Instead of floating down, crash down when the tense muscles suddenly give up. This displays lack of awareness of your own body and not knowing its inherent weaknesses (or strengths).
  • Trying to control the soft sway of the body. In all balancers, there is a soft sway when u enter deep into the pose. Trying to control it tenses the muscles not involved in the pose, which causes the sudden fall. In a well-held pose, only the muscles actively involved in the pose are tense. The rest are relaxed. This also is a state of mind that is very yogic: restful alertness. A tense alertness creates negative hormonal loop for sure! Anger or anxiety, as per your pattern!
Happy sadhana:)

Be open to learning!!

1 comment:

Anila said...

Thanks Shameem..Have just started doing headstand on my own and the pointers are really really helpful. Especially the one with holding the stomach in- Did wonders for me! :-)