Inversions of yoga poses and risks of strokes

Inversions of yoga poses and risks of strokes

Inversions, such as Headstand (Sirsasana) and Shoulderstand (Sarvangasana), are often considered “real” poses by Hatha Yoga practitioners. Some students and teachers consider inversions to be of paramount importance in their personal Hatha Yoga practice.

While there are many benefits to investments, students with pre-existing medical conditions needlessly put themselves at risk. When we don’t have health problems, it’s easy to put aside questions of risk and contraindications, but Yoga teachers and students must investigate.

For students who have a history of stroke, in their family, or who have had a previous stroke, the approach to reversals should be “Extreme Caution.” This is followed by a question and answer session on safety measures, contraindications, and information that should be available to both Yoga teachers and students.

Q: I have a new student who had a stroke last year. I keep hearing warnings and contraindications about “recent strokes.” How recent, is it recent? What do I need to know about helping her get into Wheel Pose (Chakrasana), preparing for Headstand, Shoulderstand, or any other inversion?

A: About investing for students who are at risk, with pre-existing medical conditions, such as stroke: I would not advise them, whether or not the stroke was recent.

This person is at extreme risk when taking any position in which they are in a full reversal. There’s also a fair amount of risk any time he puts his head below heart level, whether he’s leaning forward or backward, like wheel pose.

Here’s why: Strokes can happen for a variety of reasons. Among these causes, blood clots, broken fragments of arterial plaque, and other masses are commonly associated with strokes. Once there is a blockage of blood to the brain, you have a stroke, due to lack of oxygen and nutrients reaching the brain.

Unfortunately, your student has a pre-existing medical condition. I would not flip a student who was in some risk category related to an inverted posture. I know this sounds harsh, but I doubt your student has “physician’s consent.” You may want to insist on it. A “doctor’s note” would be advisable.

This is for their protection, as well as yours. In your case, we are concerned about your health, safety and well-being. In her case, if she is injured, due to her participation in her class, she has to live with it; and any resulting lawsuit could test the limits of her liability insurance.

For the record: Other contraindications to inverted yoga poses include epilepsy, heart conditions, neck injuries, high blood pressure, glaucoma, and other eye problems. There is also significant debate as to whether a student should perform full inversions during menstruation and pregnancy. In all these cases, a doctor’s advice should be sought.

© Copyright 2009 – Paul Jerard / Aura Publications

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