They say the headstand is the King of all Yoga postures. If you think you aren’t quite up to these regal heights, think again – Genny Wilkinson-Priest gives the latest on a new piece of apparatus that will get you up there.
It can be, rightly or wrongly, the measure of success in one’s yoga practice. You’ve seen it before in a yoga class – the super lithe, tattooed guy at the front of the class who effortlessly presses into a tripod headstand, holding it steady for several minutes. After, he’ll rest for a few moments in child’s pose (because he knows he should) before sitting up, smugly looking around to see who is still struggling in Dolphin Pose, the pre-requisite to a headstand.
Yoga isn’t supposed to be competitive, and teachers will forever opine that it’s not the shape you create on the outside that’s important, but the work you do on the inside. But let’s face it – we all want to rock a headstand like The Super Lithe, Tattooed Guy At The Front of The Class.
Feet Up, a new yoga gizmo that helps you go upside down, was invented to help you do just that.
The product – quite pricey at £95 – is squarely aimed at yogis who, whether through fear or injury, cannot lift into a headstand or hold one by themselves.
I must admit to being a bit sceptical at first. It looks like a grown-up’s potty. (It didn’t help that my 3-year-old kept dragging it into the bathroom, thinking that’s where it belonged.)
It’s fairly simple to use. With FeetUp against a wall, kneel down with your hands holding on to the wooden arms of the stool. Place your head into the hole of the pad, with the shoulders resting firmly on top of the pads. So positioned, lift your hips up and start to straighten your legs into headstand position.
It’s comfortable to use. The faux-leather padding feels supportive and comfortable under the shoulders. I normally practice headstands for 2-3 minutes before my neck begins to give way. With FeetUp, I was able to comfortably hold it for much longer. Many of the benefits of headstand (calms the brain, relieves stress, tones the abdominal organs, strengthens the arms, legs and spine) come only after you stay in the pose for a while.
Once up, there is zero pressure on the cervical spine – the vulnerable neck area of the spinal column that can be compressed in a headstand if the shoulders are not strong enough to take much of the weight of the body.
One student of mine who has had shoulder surgery (thus rendering them pretty immovable) has never been able to invert, surprised us both when she effortlessly lifted up. And stayed up!
Head standing can be scary – you are literally turning your world upside down, and can easily become disoriented. With FeetUp, you feel safe.
It’s costly at £95! You’d have to really be into your yoga to purchase this.
The FeetUp, though a boon to those with weak shoulders and neck, won’t help those with high blood pressure get into a headstand. They still cannot practice “inversions” as the blood rushing to the brain when upside down can cause weak blood vessels to burst.
The same goes for other headstand contra-indications: detached retina, menstruation, advanced pregnancy and rheumatoid arthritis. FeetUp isn’t going to make head standing safe for these people.
I taught several headstand virgins with the FeetUp, and most reported an uncomfortable rush of blood to the head. To be fair, that’s what happens when you kick up into a headstand, whether using the FeetUp or not. But it can be an uncomfortable feeling to beginners, who shouldn’t be fooled that this prop is going to make headstand simple. You still have to work at it.
German yoga teacher Kilian Trenkle reinvented the inversion prop when he designed FeetUp. (Iyengar enthusiasts have been using chairs and rolled up mats for years to hold them upside down safely.) ‘I created a prop that is simple and very practical at the same time … In the last (few) years, I haven’t seen a single person who was not able to do a headstand with FeetUp,’ he says.
It’s a fairly new offering in the UK, and sales of it are ‘booming’ according to YogaMatters, the only UK distributor of the stool, noting that the Iyengar community has in particular embraced the prop.
Advanced practitioners too can use the FeetUp. The manual has clearly illustrated variations that include backbending and twisting headstands.
As a teacher, I’d recommend this prop as it gives all the benefits of headstand, minus the risk. As a practitioner, it’s fun to play with. But probably a bit unwieldy to bring to your yoga class and impress The Super Lithe, Tattooed Guy At The Front of The Class.
FeetUp can be bought at www.yogamatters.com
Genny teaches Vinyasa Flow Yoga and Ashtanga Yoga at London studio Triyoga.
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