Leg Behind Head Pose And Neck Pain

Transcript below of: Leg behind head and neck pain

Hey everybody!
I’m going to answer another question of the month for you. Before I get started, on this month’s topic of leg behind head and neck pain, make sure you’ve gone over to yoganatomy.com and signed up for my newsletter. You’ll get the latest articles in your inbox and find out about some of the courses I’ve got on yoganatomy.com. You may also want to read my article: An Anatomical Breakdown of Leg Behind Head.

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The Question:

This question on leg behind head and neck pain comes from Alyssa. “Hi, David. I’ve always had neck issues: neck pain, muscle stiffness, and inflammation, limited cervical mobility. I hate practicing eka pada and dwi pada sirsasana. [DK: That’s one foot or two feet behind head, if you’re doing a type of practice where you don’t do that.] An MRI showed some herniated disks, C5-C6, bad, C6-C7, moderate, which sheds some light on why those poses have felt so terrible for years, when I see other people become more comfortable in them over time.

I’ll get to the point. I don’t want to practice those poses. They don’t feel good and they make my neck hurt. The neurosurgeon, who practices yoga, said I shouldn’t be doing them. From either an anatomical safety lens or an Ashtanga tradition perspective, should my practice now end at ardha matsyendrasana or can I modify those postures, like leg-over-the-shoulder, but not behind the head, and keep going?”

The Answer:

Wow, a couple of big questions there. First, I’m glad you got to the bottom of the probable reason why those postures didn’t feel very good. Your big question is from an anatomical safety perspective, should you be doing single foot or double foot behind head posture? Probably not. You’ve got the neurosurgeon who does practice yoga who probably understands a lot of the ins and outs and do’s and don’t of practice already and has experienced it so he understands increasing range of motion and all that kind of stuff and he’s not just telling you not to do it because it looks crazy. It’s probably a good idea to listen to them. You don’t typically find those kinds of problems getting better over time. They typically get worse, so, I’m okay with you modifying them.

Permission to modify

Are you okay with you modifying them? I say that from a distance. I don’t know you and I don’t know your practice. Because you’re reaching out to ask me, my basic assumption is that you don’t have a regular teacher or somebody that you check in with. You’re probably a home practitioner, of which there are thousands. If you need somebody’s permission, you’ve got mine. You can modify those postures.

How to modify

Leg-over-shoulder sounded good. If you really wanted to work the external rotation, maybe you put in a lying pigeon posture or something like that, just to get pressure in there. And yes, keep going. I wouldn’t say that your practice should now end at ardha matsyendrasana. Just let it keep going. Add in little by little. And better yet, find a teacher who you’re comfortable with, who you connect with, and who can guide you as you do these kinds of modifications and continue to do your practice.

I hope that helped!

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