Transcript Of: Should I Do Setu Bandhasana And Shoulder Stand?
Hey everybody! Welcome to this month’s question of the month. If you have a question you can always go to yoganatomy.com/myquestion and submit your own. This month’s question is about setu bandhasana.
So this month’s question is:
“I often hear warnings about neck injuries related to the last pose in the primary series and [the] following first poses in the finishing sequence, that is setu bandhasana and the shoulder stands, salamba sarvangasana all the way through to pindasana. Although they are quite different, setu bandhasana being a backbend and the shoulder stands are kind of a forward bend in terms of the neck, I would like to hear your insights regarding the connection between the two in the Ashtanga system. I assume there is a reason for practicing setu bandhasana at the end of primary prior to the finishing sequence (maybe also prior to intermediate)?
And how do you recommend to protect the neck when practicing these poses? I have [a] prior medical condition like neck/back injuries.
So, I’m going to start with the end of your question first. If you have very specific problems in your neck, and possibly in your back, it’s possible that these postures should not be practiced by you. Don’t take the chance if you have neck herniations. It could be a problem, or if you find that it exacerbates that problem, obviously, then just stop. I mean, even, since you’re an Ashtangi, there’s a quote in the beginning of Pattabhi Jois’s book, he says, “not all postures are for all people”. So it implies that it’s not that you have to do every single posture in that particular exact way. You always have to individualize it to whatever degree necessary. You know, the idea is that you modify as little as possible and as much as necessary.
Ok, so we can talk about setu bandhasana more generally. So, if you have medical issues, just don’t, just don’t do it. You know if you’ve got real neck problems and you think it’s going to make it worse, just don’t do it, period. To be fair, the postures that you bring up, especially setu bandhasana, there are a lot of anatomical reasons why we could argue that you should never do something like that. To be fair, there are lots of anatomical reasons to argue why you should never do a whole bunch of yoga postures, like why would you ever put your foot behind your head? Why would you ever do a backbend? So, that’s a slippery slope. But this one is particularly important because it’s our neck, so a lot more fear comes up around it and rightfully so.
The way I look at setu bandhasana is, although you took it and put it into sequence into what comes after it, what I would say is, also look at what comes before it. So there’s going to be a whole series of postures where you end up doing this action without weight on your head. So, whether it’s upavistha konasana, looking forward with your chin on the floor, or even bhujapidasana, where you try to touch your chin to the floor. There’s a whole series of postures where you do this and then you roll on it or you go back, like supta konasana, for instance. So, you’re kind of doing this action before you get to setu bandhasana. Ideally, it’s enough to build up strength so that it is a relatively comfortable posture. But, a lot of times what people do is they skip sections of postures and then get to the end. For setu bandhasana, I would suggest not doing that. If you skip a whole bunch of postures prior to it, then you might as well skip setu bandhasana as well because it is precarious on the neck, etc.
You asked a really good question about how setu bandhasana relates to intermediate. Although it’s not until the very end of intermediate, there’s a group of seven headstands where your body weight is going through your head, which is not typical for headstand. Headstand is really forearm balance with your head lightly touching. But, there are also the headstands that are coming before that where the weight is definitely directly on your head. So, it’s assumed we could say, that prior to that you have built up the strength to do that.
In terms of, bringing it back to setu bandhasana relative to salamba sarvangasana, halasana, pindasana, etc., there are often times in yoga practices, a sort of back and forth. Forward and back or side and side or twist to the right, twist to the left — that is just generally about maintaining some balance between moving in all directions.
So, I hope that answers your question. If not, shoot me another email. Anybody else, if you have a question, by all means, go to yoganatomy.com/myquestion and submit your own question.