Where Does the Head Go, in a Headstand?

Margaret Kruszewska

There have always existed differences amongst the various schools of yoga. In the order of the yoga poses, how quickly you move through them, if you rest in between or if you’re encouraged to use yoga props.

Yesterday, while taking one of my favorite yoga classes, I was told that my head placement in a headstand was wrong. I tried the suggested adjustment, but immediately felt pressure on my neck and knew it was wrong. But that’s the subject of another conversation.

What followed in class though was an unsettling exchange between me and the yoga teacher, whose knowledge I’ve trusted for months. We disagreed about the placement of the head because we each had a different idea of what the next logical pose would be. She insisted the “goal” of the headstand was to actually balance on the head alone and I’ve always insisted on the importance of building a strong foundation and balance through the triangular arms – to prepare for a scorpion pose.
It continued to puzzle me after class and so I dug out several yoga instructional books written by different teachers when I got home. Knowing her training was influenced by Iyengar and mine by Sivananda explained some of the difference. But I realized we were both caught in thinking about the “goal” of a pose, which was ridiculous and not truly in the spirit of yoga. And all over what to do with our big heads!

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