Hands up if you love handstands!
I watched a timely and very interesting lecture this afternoon where my teacher discussed handstand injuries. This is something that I’ve heard has happened to a couple of people recently either due to collapsing and landing on the head, or literally, bones snapping. If you enjoy practising arm balances, then you will really want to be avoiding handstand injuries such as these.
Do you love handstands?
I love handstands and they are fun (depending on your idea of fun of course), but let’s not confuse gymnastics with Yoga. Being able to handstand is… just being able to handstand! The important thing is, can we have fun and avoid injury?
In some physical Yoga classes, handstands may be offered in various forms. However, it’s important to understand the risks – whether you are a teacher or as a student. Especially an older student. Injuries take a lot longer to heal as we age. Some don’t heal. We are also living longer. Yoga is supposed to heal, not hurt. Do we want to live in pain for the sake of our ego?
The stories I heard recently were of Mums having some handstand fun with their kids and really hurting themselves (as in serious vertebral issues). One woman collapsed straight on to her head and crushed her neck. My teacher discussed a young guy he had worked with who wanted to spend some time working on handstands. He developed some skills, went away to do his thing and ended up breaking some vertebral joints. They literally cracked while he was attempting a one-handed handstand. A very serious injury! His muscles may have been strong, but these particular bones hadn’t been trained long enough to support the body weight in that way.
So How Do We Avoid Handstand Injuries?
We know – for example (men particularly), that we can build muscle strength and/or bulk quite quickly. It’s also true that if we practise something over and over again, we might develop the skills to be able to do that thing quite effectively. But unlike muscles, bones and ligaments need to be trained slowly and consistently over the long term. That’s years, not weeks or months.
It’s a risk for the average person perhaps to just come up in to a handstand (or a headstand for that matter) without doing the “work”. The long term work. These things can be fun – but they are not always innocuous. Supporting yourself safely in a handstand requires a strong and flexible core, shoulders, arms, wrists, fingers, hands, chest and trunk. Not just muscular strength – bones and ligaments.
So if you are looking to work towards, maybe start at the beginning with a down dog or a plank. And seriously, if there is no progression from there, does it really matter that much?