When it comes to exercises for fitness and health, yoga is filled with the wisdom of physicians, sages and priests passed down over thousands of years. But even experts can be wrong sometimes and its good to step back and re-evaluate our ideas every once in awhile. In Yoga’s case maybe every one hundred years or so.
When it comes to fitness, it is incomplete. When it comes to overall health it was light years ahead of all other methods of exercise. It forms the roots all martial arts and Zen practices are built upon. Nonetheless, some practices and poses it uses are questionable, others are risky with little benefit, and some can even cause injuries.
Yoga stands out in stark contrast to western types of exercises. It was designed to incorporate aspects of physical, mental and spiritual well-being. It has more to do with philosophy and life style than it has to do with exercise. In contrast to western exercises it is about conservation of energy and stillness while exercising.
Special breathing exercises to strengthen the lungs, as well as the mind are designed for prolonged meditation. In final analysis, meditation and spiritual enlightenment were the ultimate goal and purpose for doing the exercises. The highest level practitioners were often ascetics and priests.
When it comes to health, it’s time to reevaluate some of the things we do in the name of health. In light of what we now know about the potential role of venous drainage issues, CCSVI and the likely role of upper cervical misalignments in causing drainage problems, some poses present cause for concern and consideration. Probably the riskiest is the headstand.
One of the primary rationales for doing the headstand is to increase blood flow to the thyroid and brain. It is also quite athletic and requires confidence, balance and controlled poise. The problem is that it causes inversion flows and back pressure against the brain via the vertebral veins in the neck, which raises intracranial pressure.
More than that, in this particular pose, no matter how perfectly performed, the cervical spine carries a load, which it was never designed to. Even slight wobbles can strain the neck and cause misalignments in the critial area of the upper cervical spine. So what is the benefit to risk ratio of this particular pose. I would say the risk outweighs the benefits in this case.