It makes a lot of great points about the benefits of inversion poses, but also warns of possible dangers associated with them. The issue
doesn’t seem to be so much one of overdoing it in a particular session, but of overdoing it in the long term. As somebody who has practiced meditation for quite awhile but is new to yoga, I am finding that inversion poses are great to precede meditation. But I am wondering about some of the possible dangers now.
Right now I do a shoulder stand for about 5 breaths, (maybe 30 seconds) and a supported headstand for the same amount of time. This is at the end of my routine. I usually follow each with a child pose, then spend a few minutes in corpse pose relaxing before I head over to the “sacred space” where I practice zazen (in half lotus) for 30 minutes. The first picture on this article is a guy doing a seriously amazing, unsupported handstand. Not sure what exact pose that is.
Which led me to an interesting idea. The problem with headstands and shoulder stands seem to be in the neck and shoulders which are being squished under the weight of the body. So poses that don’t apply this pressure would probably have less risks, correct?
Several other questions then:
Would you advise against shoulder stands and headstands for a beginner, or just to go easy on them? If I keep doing them, is there a good pose that might counter the negative effects – say something that would strengthen the neck or shoulders? What about a supported handstand? (Adho Mukha Vrksasana) Since you are using a wall and not the neck or shoulders, this should be “healthier” I think, for a beginner, so long as you have sufficient arm strength. (I can do it for possibly 30 seconds). Another issue seems to be spinal compression. So I’d assume that anything that helps do decompress the spine is helpful. If I get it aright, that includes many back bends, forward bends, and side bends as well as twisting positions, which are all part of my routine. Also, I spend some time, (I try to do a few a day) hanging from a chin-up bar. It is an exercise I learned from a non-yoga book on stretching. You tighten all the muscles of your body, and then release. The release of tension causes the muscles to relax and the spine decompresses. This is repeated with a reversed grip on the bar.
What is the “holy grail” of inversion poses? I’m assuming it would be a completely unsupported handstand as I linked to above. I wonder how realistic it is for somebody like me to begin working towards something like that. (The sooner the better, so long as I am patient). It seems that it wouldn’t have a lot of the dangers except maybe spinal compression.