Dear Jessica: Hello! I am living in a temporary situation and do not have a class/teacher to go to because I travel a lot. I hear that inversions are good for thyroid imbalances, and I have a slight imbalance – you know. The doctor keeps testing it and saying its borderline, but I’ve had issues. My point is that I am trying to learn to do a headstand, and I can’t seem to let myself do it. I am afraid of breaking my neck. Any tips? I have progressed to moderate control and flexibility, and have benefited from the plough and the shoulder stand … I want to move on!
Jessica: Yikes! Doing headstands by yourself? Your fears of “breaking your neck” are well warranted! I would not recommend that to anyone! Are there people out there who do that? Probably. Am I one of them? Not a chance! I believe in safety 1st and that means having a knowledgeable buddy with you there at all times. Who wants to end up in ER for doing a Yoga pose?! I would advocate that you move to practicing this pose ONLY if you have a knowledgeable friend or teacher helping you.
I do, however, admire your desire to keep up a home practice in your time of transition, and would like to suggest a couple other poses to support your thyroid that are safer to practice solo:
1) Lie on your back on the floor with legs stretched out, feet pointing towards the ceiling. Slide your hands, palms down, below your buttocks. Then rest your buttocks on the backs of your hands (and don’t lift them off your hands as you perform this pose). Be sure to tuck your forearms and elbows up close to the sides of your torso.
2) Inhale and press your forearms and elbows firmly against the floor. Next, with an inhale, squeeze your shoulder blades together and lift your upper torso and head away from the floor, propping yourself up with your elbows. Then release your head back onto the floor. Depending on how high you arch your back and lift your chest, either the back of your head or its crown will rest on the floor. There should be a minimal amount of weight on your head to avoid crunching your neck; your weight should be on your elbows.
3) Stay for 15 to 30 seconds, breathing smoothly. With an exhalation, tuck your chin into your chest and lower your torso and head to the floor. Counter stretch with Cradle Rock.
1) Lie on your back on the floor. Bend your knees and set your feet on the floor, heels as close to the “sit bones” as possible.
2) Exhale and, pressing heels and arms actively into the floor, begin to lift the hips, lower, middle, then upper back off the floor. Keep your thighs and feet parallel, with the feet flat on the floor. Clasp the hands underneath your body and extend through the arms to help you stay on the tops of your shoulders. Squeeze your shoulder blades together.
3) Tuck the chin slightly to extend the back of the neck. Roll the shoulders back towards the floor. Focus on lifting the hips up towards the ceiling.
Stay in the pose anywhere from 30 seconds to 1 minute. Release with an exhalation, rolling slowly down the spine, one vertebra at a time. Repeat 4-6 times. Counter stretch with Cradle Rock.
Standing Forward Bend – the inversion that everyone knows and perhaps is easiest to do – will bring a rush of fresh blood to the head and therefore the thyroid. You can stand with your feet together (Uttansana) or apart (Padangusthasana).