Any time you are not comfortable in the headstand you should come down. In twisting, forward bending, or backbending postures you can explore the edges of minor aches and pains without too much worry, but in the head-stand this is inadvisable because your frame of reference to what is normal is too fundamentally askew.
Pain in your shoulders usually means that you are making too much effort in the posture. If you slowly learn to balance and build strength and flexibility, shoulder pain should diminish. Pain in the neck region is always disquieting. It may be caused by imbalances in muscular tension or inflammation of vertebral joints. If you feel deep pain, stop doing the head-stand until it has gone away. Muscles usually respond to joint problems by tensing at the fulcrum of the joint—if you turn your head to a certain point and find that, it is painful to move it further, it indicates that your nervous system is objecting. So be conservative, listen to the body, and stop doing the headstand until you can turn your head freely through a normal range of motion. Get help from knowledgeable therapists if the problem does not go away of its own accord.
A recurring theme in the oral (as well as written) tradition of hatha yoga 18 that any extensive practice of the headstand should always be followed by the shoulderstand and related postures. Commentators tell us that practicing the headstand alone results in an imbalance that manifests as edginess and irritability. They also say that if you practice the headstand for more than twenty minutes, it is good to have some food afterward, or
4<)6 anaronn of hatha \oca at least some hot, boiled milk If you don't, they tell us, you are likely experience a raw, uncomfortable feeling in the abdomen later in the day Another caution: the headstand does not work well after aerobic exercis Hatha yoga postures are fine, but not dozens of sun salutations, walkr briskly, or running. If you do the headstand regularly for more than fi minutes during the course of a regular hatha practice, and then try it son, time after aerobic exercise, you will quickly sense an impulse to come do v. an impulse it will he wise to follow. An old hatha yogi—a centenarian—fr< India once told me in utter seriousness that doing the headstand regula after aerobic exercise would cause the skull to soften. Yes? And? 'I e biological basis for such observations (assuming they might be valid s uncertain. What is certain is that you should use common sense with t s posture and honor all input from the senses that tells you to be modei e or even not do it at all.
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