Poses to Avoid: Neck, Shoulder & Upper Back Care

Sirsasana (Headstand)

  • For neck issues, many experts avoid Headstand as it places pressure on the cervical spine and aggravate existing neck problems.
  • In the case of kyphosis, also, Headstand is not safe due to the fact that the thoracic spine “is not properly aligned to channel weight.” (Bill Reif)
  • However, see information provided in this section regarding Headstand Prep as part of strengthening practice for those who are ready, and when close supervision is possible and alignment risks can be eliminated.
  • Salamba Sirsasana

Sarvangasana (Shoulderstand)

  • Although neck stress is less than in Headstand, Shoulderstand can also aggravate existing neck problems.
  • And as with Headstand, those with kyphosis cannot properly align themselves in such inversions.
  • Salamba Sarvangasana

Repetitive Vinyasa

If there is any misalignment of the shoulder joint in weight-bearing poses such as Plank, Chaturanga, Downward Facing Dog and arm balances, repetitive practice can lead to more issues, such as pinching the bursae or tendons of the shoulder and exacerbating neck compression. (Amber Burke)

Misalignment in such poses is more likely among:

  • New students
  • Students with rounding in the upper back – because these students have internally rotated shoulders, they are vulnerable to shoulder injury in such poses
  • Students with occasional shoulder or neck pain
  • Students who have become fatigued after repeated vinyasa

For Kyphosis

For Kyphosis, Avoid Spinal Flexion

[The quoted expert] does not recommend that yoga students with kyphosis do poses that flex (round) the spine, which would reinforce their undesirable postural habits and may even lead to more fractures for those whose kyphosis is caused by osteoporosis and osteoarthritis. “For those with a fragile, kyphotic spine stemming from one of these diseases, even the spinal flexion that comes from hugging the knees to the chest while lying down could cause vertebral collapse,” he explains. – Amber Burke