A good headstand is a very light one. It is soft. I have an expat student who keeps asking which muscle to tighten extra before going up. I find these questions have already interfered with her growth. If there is a muscle to tighten I will suggest it, na? When you start on a pose, unless there is any specific reason to tighten something, you cannot even imagine you should do that, simply because in a disorienting pose like that contracting muscles will simply throw you off the center.
A good headstand is like a huge tree moving softly with every whiff of breath. It is soft. It is not fixed by tightening muscles but flowing with an awareness that ensures which muscle must tighten when and where as required. It is a flowing firm-release practice.This is what makes a good headstand deeply relaxing. In a good headstand, you are constantly releasing the pressure at the neck by lifting from the elbows and elongating your shoulderblades. At this point the body can move back to the center if it has lost it. Most people who hold a stiff headstand fear this movement and hence resist entering that zone altogether thus losing the most beautiful and sophisticated joy of holding a headstand well.
The mistakes that beginners make, and is permissible, but unacceptable in advanced students involve:
Collapsing at the neck.
- . this will cause the wrong muscles to develop, creating a thick neck and most likely a double chin.
- This collapse at the neck will also hike the blood pressure because it presses into the cardiac plexus which manages your blood flow.
- It will spike the heart beat.
- It will constrict the breath, making it effort-full.
Curving at the spine:
It could be at the neck, as most beginners tend to do this. Or mid-back as advanced students do when they want to increase the duration in the pose without initiating the corrections or softness or firmness required. Often this is the mistake you will find in advanced students greedy for upping their hold in the final pose. Or at the lower back, which happens usually when the student is unaware a curve is being created and pushes the hips back, again due to a lack of awareness. Interesting the hips move back only because the student wishes to keep the legs in front, to be able to avert a backward fall.
- All of this will create a postural defect with its corresponding problem at the emotional level: the neck collapse will increase anxiety or anger/ the mid-back collapse will push the ego out more in the open/ the lower back collapse will deter your stamina under stress.
- Plus, it is going to give you permanent paunchy look, because you have wrongly trained and pushed the spine into protruding out. Nothing you do with abs exercise will rectify this.
The worst side effect of a bad headstand is that because the breath is strained, it will trigger the sympathetic nervous system, thus triggering stress hormones and an inflammatory response in the body as it tries to deal with this. What it means is that you are going to be stiffer than before, because that is how the sympathetic nervous system wrecks your body, by increasing the acid levels in your blood.