Handstands are a common way for yogis to highlight their strength, balance, and flexibility. They're fun and scary at the same time. I liken them to the roller coaster of yoga. In addition to composure, resolve is also necessary for this inverted stance. Has the question, "Can your handstand be causing back pain?" perhaps crossed your mind?
Although handstands are frequently praised for their ability to strengthen the core and shoulders and enhance general body control, this may seem paradoxical. However, the link between handstands and back pain is a crucial topic to research, particularly if you struggle with unexplained chronic soreness in your lower back.
Your spine is put under a lot of pressure when you do handstands. This pressure may cause back problems if carried out without sufficient muscular support. It's not the shape that sets us up for pain. We've seen plenty of contortionists who create mind-bending shapes yet don't experience chronic back pain. However, for the recreational yogi, insufficient core activation, as seen by severe back arching (banana back) during a handstand, may be placing undue strain on the lower back muscles. If done repeatedly, this may create muscle tension and eventually result in chronic discomfort.
Look at the image below. It's beautiful. However, when I look at it from a mechanical perspective, I can tell that the core is not activated. She's using the shape—head forward, back arching, core pushing out, and legs behind the head—to hold on to the pose, not to mention using the wall to maintain it. Now imagine gravity pushing down. If she's not activated, pushing gravity away, the force of gravity increases the pressure on the spine.
When practicing handstands, it is essential to adopt the proper technique to ensure both safety and efficacy. A neutral spine, which looks like a straight line from your hands to your feet from the outside, is the preferred handstand stance. When we stand on our feet, we're not arching our backs to maintain the stance. The same rule of alignment should be applied to our handstand. This alignment lessens the likelihood of lower back strain.
Additionally, we tend to get into handstands the same way, for example, by using the same leg to kick up. Doing this repeatedly creates overuse and imbalance, making us even more vulnerable to pain. If this is you, as frustrating as it might seem, it might be time to reexamine your handstands. For many of us, me included, it means undoing how we've gotten into handstands and starting to build the pose. Waiting until we have enough core strength and alignment before the feet even leave the earth.
Ever want to annoy a yogi? Tell them to be patient and build a pose instead of getting into it.
Keep in mind that the key to handstands is core strength and stacking hips over shoulders instead of getting the legs up. Your core muscles can lessen the strain on your lower spine by stabilizing your body while you're upside down. If your core isn't strong enough, your lower back will take the bulk of the strain, which could cause pain.
If you experience back pain outside of the yoga room, try this simple test to see if your handstands are contributing to it. Stop practicing handstands for a few weeks. Keep practicing yoga; just leave out the handstands or any other back-arching inversions. If you experience some relief with everything else being the same, you know that how you're either entering and/or holding your handstand is contributing to your back pain. Even though handstands can be a great addition to your exercise regimen, poor form and underdeveloped core muscles may actually result in back pain. Always check your form, and if pain persists, seek expert advice. After all, your back's health and wellbeing should always come first! Keep flowing and growing!
All my love,
Hello, my name is Vikky, and I am thrilled to share my passion for yoga with you. I have been teaching yoga for over 13 years in South Florida, and my journey with this ancient practice started over 37 years ago. As a registered yoga teacher and 200 Yoga School with Yoga Alliance, I hold expertise in multiple disciplines of yoga, including yogic anatomy, 500-hour yoga teacher training, yogic philosophy, and meditation. My classes are a blend of dynamic movement, breathwork, and meditation, providing a holistic experience that nurtures the mind, body, and spirit. I believe yoga is for everyone, regardless of age, fitness level, or experience. My approach is welcoming and inclusive, creating a safe and nurturing environment for all my students to explore the many benefits of yoga. Through my teachings, I hope to inspire and empower students to connect with their inner selves, cultivate mindfulness, and lead healthier, happier lives. Join me in my classes to experience the transformative power of yoga firsthand. Join me at Evolution Yoga.