Ahymsin Newsletter: Yoga is Samadhi

Dear Yoga Mentor, My Question Is…

Sometimes students write to or ask Swami Veda and other senior teachers in our tradition questions about practice.  When this happens, Swami Veda may answer the question himself or ask a senior teacher to do so, or if the question is asked directly to a senior teacher, the senior teacher will respond.  This is one such “Question and Answer,” or Q&A.

This question came from a long time sadhaka:

I'm doing a headstand for 25 minutes--is that OK and what frequency should I be doing it?


Popular question in asana.  There are friends of mine who have done the headstand for that length — not sure how regular they were over months and months.  So I don’t have exact information for you.

The approach I take to all training is similar.  People doing asana (not necessarily you), often do not train like anyone in athletics or performance.  There is this tendency in Yoga to treat asana in some mystical way — at least way too early for most.

So to get back to your question — I would ask how you are doing.  Do you track how you are doing as far as effects and the normal differences that we have from day to day and week to week and season to season, etc.

It doesn’t have to be complicated but we are not keeping training logs of sufficient worth.  (usually there is no program design or record keeping — it is just casual advice or a very limited scope of what I or you or a few teachers say or do or find out)

This type of thinking and therefore prescribing based on such small anecdotal, personal and limited scope has got to be curtailed.  It has its place but it is just sooooo over used in Yoga.  It was that way in Martial Arts and some other areas that lend themselves to a mystical and not rigorously defined areas of practice.  

If you are finding that 20-25 minutes is OK, what was your progression to get to that time.  Let’s say you took months and months (possible years of total training).  How many weeks or months have you practiced it for that length of time.  Doing anything daily, 7 days/week, for weeks and weeks or longer is not what most of us naturally do.  Headstands can be very stimulating and rebalancing when done in a program that builds, maintains and then changes it’s program over time.

So I’m thinking of someone doing the headstand daily for long periods — say a 1/2 hour for a general time.  The progression up to that 1/2 hour mark should be gradual.  This slow progression allows for sufficient adaptation and proper feedback.  Too fast of a progression often misses smaller and subtler changes that should be noted and then addressed.  

The headstand for some creates too much effort in larger muscle groups.  This type of over effort builds up abnormal tension let’s say in the neck and back extensors (it could and often is different for many). Maybe the vascular tension balancing system also may need more time — but too quick of a progression does not allow one to assess eye pressure, heart and pulse pressure changes.  The subtle to gross changes of where the breath is flowing at the beginning vs the middle vs the end of the 1/2 hour inverted position gets missed.  This time line from the start to the end of the position could be a template to look at many other parameters also.  

It is this constant paying attention (not in some general sense of weird “knowing” - that is overused) but looking and feeling for specific changes mentioned above. Also include what body areas are more stable and which ones are fatiguing over time, with then over effort in misplaced areas — which leads to turning down our attention and getting back to this erroneous endeavor to “DO” some level of performance — that has not been properly trained through proper program design and execution.

So if you feel you are doing just fine and have accomplished the above, then I would recommend maintaining this headstand for at least 6-12 weeks.  Then you would taper off in frequency — so not daily (which I would never do anyway).  As you decrease from 7 days let’s say to 5 days and then even 3 days—you are looking for what is the minimum frequency that is needed to maintain the effects that the previous level gave to you.

Also at some time, usually in 2-6 months, you need to stop the activity and reassess for several weeks to a couple of months.  Then you could once again do this practice of slowly progressing and see what your response is now.  

Everything in training is response dependent.  Practice is not technique dependent.  Too often we get stuck in a particular practice and we de-emphasize our response to the training.  Remember our response — ourselves are always changing — not everything changes at the same rate, etc.

This topic of what to do and how much is pretty vast.  It touches on some of the things I have mentioned.  There, of course, is so much more to say on it.  

So Good Luck
Train well
Peter Fabian



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