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Yoga Wall, Inversions, Controversy, and the King and Queen

Posted by on Jan 24, 2017

The Yoga Wall is the new kid on the block of yoga props while inversions have been the mainstay of the yoga asana practice since the beginning of time. Recently though, some inversions have fallen into controversy due to their potential to cause injury when poorly executed. The Yoga Wall is not part of that controversy. Quite the contrary, it is a safe place to deepen your practice.

An Iyengar-style prop, the Yoga Wall uses straps and belts affixed to a secure wall to help yogis find better alignment and deeper postures, which increases energy flow through the body. It’s fun to use and makes your yoga practice feel incredible. It’s really the best wall for yoga. Everybody agrees. I love this wall. It’s amazing…

Inversions are the rockstars of yoga – more than that, they are royalty. Sirsasana (Headstand) is the king of yoga; Sarvangasana (Shoulderstand) is the queen. In his book Light on Yoga, B.K.S. Iyengar describes the King as a head of state and explains that the body cannot be well without a healthy and vibrant brain stimulated and rejuvenated by Sirsasana. The Queen, on the other hand, nurtures the nervous system. Like any queen worth her crown would do for her people, her majesty Sarvangasana creates harmony. Sirsasana heats the body, while Sarvangasana cools it. (Royalty as HVAC is a concept that could only work in yoga.)

But this royal couple has come under fire in the West. Some teachers find Headstand and Shoulderstand too dangerous for general classes. These poses are taught less and less often in the studio for reasons related to the litigious nature of our society but also to some of the medical literature. Here are a few reasons behind the controversy:

  • Many of us suffer from electronic device induced forward head posture. We strain our neck forward while staring into our screens thus creating undue tension on the sweet little vertebral bodies of the cervical spine. When you explore the physics of a posture in which much of the body weight is supported on the slender cervical spine, you’ll understand how Headstand can be perceived as dangerous for such necks as ours! Shoulderstand poses similar stresses due to extreme forward flexion of the neck.
  • Many of us are not sufficiently schooled to practice Headstand and Shoulderstand safely.
  • The ego entreats us to show off in these dynamic and visually exciting postures, thus exacerbating the risk of injury.

But such inversions are the fountain of youth to practitioners and we are disinclined to abandon such promise! The benefits of inversions in yoga include:

  • Increased blood flow to the pituitary and hypothalamus glands – related to happiness and wellbeing
  • Improved circulation – particularly to heart and brain
  • Improved digestion
  • Detox
  • Improved immunity
  • Healthy skin and hair, fewer grays and combovers
  • Decreased depression and insomnia
  • Reduced risk of certain types of strokes
  • Strong bones
  • Reduced overall spinal compression (which might even mean maintaining your height as you age)

It’ not hard to see why inversions such as Headstand and Shoulderstand are so hard to abandon. Enter the Yoga Wall! By supporting the weight of the entire body, the Yoga Wall makes such inversions possible without risk to the cervical spine and with all the wonderful benefits. The King is dead, long live the King!

Check out Meg’s workshop Yoga Wall: Inversions this Friday 6-7:30 pm. Meg Satinsksy is a physical therapist and yoga instructor schooled in advanced Yoga Wall techniques. You may think of her as the queen of the Yoga Wall. Click here to sign up.