The yoga Headstands have been growing in popularity over the years. Especially on Instagram you’ll see many pictures and videos of people doing headstands and you’ll usually think to yourself “Wow that looks cool!” but if you’re here reading this, I am sure you’re wondering, “Are headstands bad for your neck?”
Headstands can be very dangerous and are not recommend if you have previous spinal injuries, due to the amount of pressure and weight that can be applied to the head and neck if done incorrectly. The headstand pose requires a strong core and upper body, as long as you have no previous health conditions we recommend building up to this pose and starting slowly. If done incorrectly, you can cause compression to your neck, since that part of the spine is not supposed to support your entire bodyweight.
We recommend doing easier yoga poses to work up to the headstand if you are not yet ready to attempt this pose. I do not recommend doing headstands if you have a previous spinal injury.
Many websites such as Healthline agree that headstands can definitely be bad and dangerous for the neck if done wrong. So we generally recommend building up to it and making sure you pay attention to your form. Form is key almost everything, because it can help make you safer and avoid injuries.
But headstands are very beneficial if done correctly! Lets go over the benefits and disadvantages of headstands.
The benefits of Headstand
The headstand is a popular yoga pose and often considered the king pose in yoga not only because of social media posts but because of the amazing benefits that come from it.
The Dangers of Headstands
- Temporary Neck Pain
- Disc Herniation
- Stiff and tightened muscles, especially around the neck
These are only a few of many, but the true dangers come from the compression on the neck if this pose is done incorrectly. If done wrong over a long period of time or often, this can most likely lead to disc herniation because the compression will cause what is known as the softer jelly inside the spinal column to push through and slip out of place. Neck herniation is something you want to avoid at all costs, so be sure to study the form of this pose and start very slow or build your way up to this pose.
The Benefits of Headstands
As you can see from the picture above, it has included many of the benefits, but lets go through some of these benefits
- It can nourish the face due to being upside down, it will promote blood flow into the head and promote fresh nutrients into the face, improving the look and texture of your skin
- As with many other yoga poses, being in this position can relieve the stress of daily life activities, because once mastered you can stay in this pose in a relaxed manner and just forget about the daily stress of life. It is also known to reduce anxiety when done correctly.
- Strengthens the core and upper body. Being able to finally do this position means you’ve become fit and much stronger as this position requires strength to hold it and do it safely. You will build and maintain a very healthy amount of strength in the core and upper body area’s once achieving and actively doing this pose regularly.
It has many other benefits as shown in the image above, but these are just some of the important few I wanted to mention. So to the question “Are headstands bad for your neck?”, as I said above, yes they can be very bad if done incorrectly, but the reverse is they can be extremely beneficial if done correctly.
Headstand Safety Tips
Here are some tips I follow and recommend when doing these type of poses. These will greatly help reduce the risk of hurting yourself when learning or practicing this pose.
Have a spotter
Have a friend or family member with you to watch you and maintain your alignment. I highly suggest if possible to find a qualified yoga teacher or fitness expert to watch over you, this way you know you’re learning the correct form and are practicing as safely as possible.
Use a Wall
The wall can be great support, not just physically but emotionally, because having it there you know if you fall or tip over, you have the wall to support you. This also makes you less afraid since it brings a bit of safety and peace of mind. It also usually helps with your alignment and making sure your body is in the correctly aligned position.
I suggest not getting too reliant on the wall and using it just as support, once you get a hang of the headstand, and once you build up a decent amount of strength I suggest trying to attempt the headstand without a wall to support you. Using the wall is great to start out, but you need to do it without a wall eventually. Are headstands bad for your neck? Not if you’re safe with no injuries and use a wall to keep yourself safer.
Have pillows, cushions, or folded blankets around you
I’d usually have a cushion support my head when I first started, and some soft materials around me, so if I fell I would have less risk of hurting myself. This can be even more useful once you move away from the wall and do it on your own. You’ll still have the sense of safety without the wall, because your new sense of safety with be the soft materials around you to land on. Are headstands bad for you neck? If you don’t have a previous injury and are learning to do them safely, them no. Use the cushions to keep yourself safe.
Do Not do Headstands if you have any of the Following
- Herniated disc’s or bulging discs, especially in the neck
- Heart condition
- Head injuries
- Neck, shoulder, or body injuries or concerns
As someone with 2 herniated discs in his neck due to sports injuries, I avoid headstands because I believe headstands can be very bad for me with my current situation. So the answer for me to “Are headstands bad for your neck?” is yes, due to my injuries. I try to not do anything to irritate my neck as it can easily make the disc herniations worse.
If you have previous neck pain or an injury, I highly suggest speaking to your doctor or physical therapist first before attempting this pose, as you can put yourself at huge risk of damaging your neck if not careful.
Anyone with a previous injury, especially neck injuries have a greater likelihood of hurting themselves further when doing this pose, unless you know you can do this pose with perfect form, have consulted your doctor or physical therapist and have someone near you to spot you, I suggest not doing this exercise. In your case and mine, headstands can be bad for you. The answer for you is yes, for “Are headstands bad for your neck?”
What can I do instead of Headstands?
Here are some great other options for you!
Wide-legged forward Fold
I highly suggest this pose, it will have significantly less stress placed on your neck and is extremely safer than the headstand, you can also use this exercise as one to build your flexibility and strength if you want to work your way up to a headstand!
I’ve personally done these and they are an amazing alternative to headstands, so I highly suggest giving these a try. If the answer is yes after reading my above answer to “Are headstands bad for your neck?”, then these are a great alternative. If the answer is no to “Are headstands bad for your neck?” then these can be great to build up to the headstands and finally do them!
If you find your core is not as strong as you want it to be, planks are an incredible exercise that I personally do very often. They can have an amazing impact and great benefits to your core strength. I would do these almost everyday in mixed martial arts training and even for yoga, these are amazing. Planks will build your core strength up and prepare you to tackle headstands and you’ll have confidence in doing headstands when you have a very strong core.
So to answer the question again, “Are headstands bad for your neck?”, if you have a weak core, use planks to build up to them. If you have a weak core, then the answer to “Are headstands bad for your neck” will be yes. If you have a strong core, the answer is no to “Are headstands bad for your neck”.
I suggest being very careful with this one and using a spotter and/or a wall to help support you. These can give a similar feeling to headstands as you are upside down and will give great benefits to your core and upper body strength, just as headstands would. If the answer is yes to “Are headstands bad for your neck?” then handstands are an amazing alternative.
As long as its done correctly, it will have much less risk and pressure to your neck. The main hurdle to overcome is making sure your core and upper body are strong enough to support yourself in this position, so you don’t fall on your head and hurt your neck. This is why I recommend having a professional yoga or fitness instructor with your or a friend at least. Also use a wall to support yourself too.
Are headstands bad for your neck? Well these are a great alternative. You’ll get similar benefits to a headstand with much less risk on your neck once done correctly. Headstands will always cause some pressure on the neck, handstands, as long as you aren’t falling and using the wall as safety or have correct form, will give you the same benefits with less risks.
I have done handstands for many years and one tip I have, if you’re about to fall and don’t have a wall to support you, just tuck your chin in and fall forward or backwards, avoid hurting your neck at all costs, be careful and use a spotter if you can!
“Are headstands bad for your neck?” they can definitely be if you have a previous injury. Be safe and listen to your body, also talk to a doctor if you have previous injuries to get their opinion on if you should do a headstand or not. They can give amazing benefits for your entire body and life, but if you risk injuring yourself or you’re not strong enough to do them yet, do not rush to do them. Work your way up to them or do some of the alternatives to stay safe, healthy and pain free!
Here is another great article for you to check out! If you have a previous injury and the answer to “Are headstands bad for your neck?” is yes, try these poses out mentioned in the article below.