How to Avoid Handstand Injuries

How can we avoid handstand injuries? If you love having fun and enjoy yoga play and arm balances as much as I do, you’ll know that dealing with any injury can be very testing!

I watched a timely and very interesting lecture this afternoon where my teacher discussed yoga related handstand injuries. This is something I’ve heard has happened to a couple of people recently, either due to collapsing and landing on their head, or literally, bones snapping.

If you enjoy arm balancing, whether as part of a Yoga or body-weight strength session, then of course, you really want to avoid handstand injuries such as these.

Do You Love Handstands?

Look, let’s not confuse gymnastics with Yoga. Being able to handstand is… just being able to handstand! The thing is though, can we have fun with these things 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 related to handstand injuries were of Mums just having fun with their kids but really hurting themselves (serious vertebral issues). One woman collapsed straight on to her head and crushed her neck. During his lecture, my teacher discussed a young guy he had worked with who wanted to work 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 which is a pretty serious injury!

His muscles were strong, but those particular bones hadn’t been trained long enough to support the body weight in that way.

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.

So How Do We Avoid Handstand Injuries?

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. Years of it sometimes, because or most of us, it’s a process. Sure, these things can be fun, but they are not always innocuous and the only way to avoid handstand injuries is to build up slowly over time.

Supporting yourself safely in a handstand requires a strong and flexible core, shoulders, arms, wrists, fingers, hands, chest and trunk. It’s not just muscular strength, we are talking 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? 🕉😍🙏

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