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Dwipadasirsasana – is giving legs behind a head a cause of serious injury?

26.03.2017

What does giving the legs behind a head in Dwipadasirsasana bring to my practice?

Each yogi, especially those practicing a method of Ashtanga Yoga should independently assess where is their limit of comfort and safety and, above all keep in mind their health during the perfomance of each asana. The purpose of yoga is not to harm yourself and nobody should exceed the limit of common sense. Isn’t yoga supposed to be about relaxing, stretching, and chilling out? We agree, of course, for temporary discomfort because if for most of our life, we sit in front of a computer, it is not surprising that at the beginning of the yogic path we feel discomfort and suffer from muscle pain. Because yoga is more about crossing new borders rather than getting some purpose, we will never be fed up with yoga -a never ending story of selfimprovement. Yoga gives you knowledge and teaches you respect yourself. This path should be followed in concentration and tranquility even when it can be difficult or frustrating.  It is nice to enjoy each yoga lesson and celebrate every achievement on the mat. Chilling out is certainly essential, but unfortunately sometimes it’s not that easy to do. The practice of Ashtanga Yoga requires sacrifice. This may involve frustration, complaining about our body and sometimes can cause numerous injuries.

Dvipada shirshasana is one of the most difficult positions of putting legs behind the head  in the Second Series of Ashtanga Yoga, compared to Ekapada Shirshasana, Yoganidrasana or Supta Kurmasana in First Series. Here the leg which goes first is the left one, but no worries you balance it in position Supta Vajrasana or Padmasana.

The second Patanjali’s sutra “heyam duhkam anagatam” describes, that we should not provoke future suffering. This means, if you feel that the execution of this position is for you uncomfortable, causes pain in the lower back, you have a weak core strength, in addition your hip is sore and neck hurts from the pressure of the leg on it, you have to realize that at this time there is no sense to  force yourself to exercise this position. You should go back to practice the preparation instead. Sometimes it is recommended to go first to the position of Yoganidrasana, which prepares the body to Dwipada Shirshasana.  The sleeping yogi position is much easier because it keeps both iliac alas parallel, which is very similar to work in a position of thai yoga, and is considered therapeutic. 

Vinyasa Seventh (Sapta)

Jump to your feet as in the Bhujapidasana position, clamping the knees over your shoulders. Now take the left leg, the right remains upright.

Vinyasa eighth (astau)

Prepare hip position, first grasp the leg, so that there is 90 degrees angle between the calf and the thigh.  Bring your leg to the chest, do not keep your spine straight- it should be rolled when you begin this asan. This position is a preaparation to rotate the right thigh outside. Bring for a moment the foot to your face. Now it will be a crucial to place your leg on the arm and straighten it. When the thigh is on the shoulder high enough, bend the knee, pushing it out and here you are- you have this position! Most people at the beginning of their practice usually leave the leg on the neck, which really puts a lot of pressure on the cerviacal spine and it is a huge problem when you want to set up your right leg. It is much easier when you practise with the teacher and he/she helps you to slide down the leg down the shoulder blade. When you are sweaty, the leg slips down, because there is not so much resistance on the skin.

Now move your hands to the floor, grasp the right leg while keeping balance, point the knee out and slide right foot behind your head.  Remember to keep your abdomen strong and tight.

Your teacher can help you push the legs down to aviod straining the cervical vertebrae. Simply pull out the calf muscles outside and shoulder blade forward. I guarantee that it brings relief.  Without the help of the teacher it is of course more difficult, but you can always use the sweat on your back.

When you’re in position, try to raise the strenum and turn a tailbone down, find balance in a position to put hands into Anjali Mudra.

We never practise positions Kurmasana, Dwipada Shirshasana, Yoganidrasana without prior preparation and “warm body”, they are part of the whole sequence. If you are afraid that placing always left leg behind your head first will lead to destabilization of the sacroiliac joint, note that in Padmasana or Supta Virasana we do the opposite- the right leg goes first.

Taking the Dwipada position can be risky when we are not prepared for it, on the other hand, if someone is stuck in positions Ekapada shirshasana or Supta Vajrasan this can lead to pain in the scacroiliac joint, therefore it is important to move forward.

In Dwipada shirshasana feet should be placed in the point position.

Vinyasa Ninth

Move your hands to the floor, lift your hips up, moving legs put them for a moment to a flex position to secure the clamp, hanging there for a moment, direct the sitting bones down and the sternum up.

Vinyasa Tenth

While moving the legs to Bekasana, you put the feet and heels together. Jump to 

Chaturanga Dandasana.

Vinyasa Eleventh

Upward facing dog

Vinyasa Twelfth

Downward facing dog.

And is it all about? Still, for many people giving legs behind a head is strange and even ridiculous. Among the people who practise yoga, there is a still haunting question: Why do I need to struggle so much? Is this position so important? According to Gregor Mæhle well made Dwipada Shirsasana creates space between the vertebrae and increases the pulse of flowing the fluids up, which nourishes the brain.

Beginners do not have to be so terribly afraid of joint damage as those advanced ones,  practicing yoga for years. Definitely, at the beginning of the practice, there is a fairly high level of rigidity, which prevents too drastic “stretching” or “opening the joints. In contrast, those who underestimate the signals coming from the body and are trying to use excessive slack in the body, to go deeper into the position, often risk injury. For many years, yogis work on restrictions on movement, increasing its range, until the tension no longer gives signals. This moment is quite dangerous because only that can limit a compression in joints. If your body over the years gained openness, a time  will come that you are no longer able to “stretch” more and getting into full Dvipada Shirsasana is restriced only by bones. If you encounter the resistance which does not allow you to go further in the position, but you continue trying, you reach the next stage which is the compression, for example, the joints of the spine. The bones start rubbing against each other, which causes osteoarthritis, or degenerative disease. This is why so much time is added to put attention about tensing the muscles which secured joints and ligaments during any stretching.

So, what really limits us? There are two real obstacles: the tension in the connective tissue and the compression in the joint caused by the bones pressing into one another. In the hip compression is present in the fascia surrounding the hip joint, muscles around the joint and ligaments which connect the femur to the acetabulum. Compression joint can occur by compression of the fascia of the fascia when the tissue is squeezed between two bones.  If you are unable to perform Dwipada,  the compression of bones may be the cause more often reason.

Not only in Dwipada, but in each asana you should ask youself whether this position is really working for you? It has nothing to do with the tradition when we modify the asana to make it comforatble. It is important to bring a relief.

Personally I believe that sometimes it is better to bypass position and continue your practice. Stopping at any position can only lead to frustration and monotony and, as a result descourage you from further practice. Remember that some elements that you are struggling with now, you will perform better in the future, but there are some, you will probably never able to do. It should not change your original decision to start practice. As a teacher I prefer to modify the students’ practice in the class, rather than see them giving up.

I am waiting for your thoughts,

– Renia.

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