Two Types of Headstands: Where Do You Put Your Head?

Via on Jun 27, 2011

Bregma Vs. Crown Headstand

I was reading Anatomy of Hatha Yoga when I came upon two types of headstands. Who knew? So I went ahead and tried both. It turns out I have been practicing the “bregma” style and was only vaguely aware that there might be another one.

Not only that I did not even know that the word bregma existed!

As a reference: The crown of the head is located in the area where your hair spirals out as opposed to the bregma part of the head which (see yellow skull image above) is the area where the skull joins the frontal to the parietal bones. This area is soft for babies as the suture does not harden for a while after being born.

The book has this to say about them:

  • …natural response to the crown headstand is to hold the body straight, to keep the lower back flat.”
  • In the bregma headstand it is more natural to permit the lower back to relax and arch forward allowing gravvity to increase the lumbar lordosis.”
  • The bregma headstand has a more dynamic effect on your consciousness than the crown headstand”…”The crown headstand is calm and poised
COWN Headstand – Straight back. A new experience for me

So, what does Yoga Mala, -Pattabhi Jois- say about it?  “…Then inhale and exhale, place the crown of the head on the floor, interlocked hands cupping the back of the head and, breathing in and out, straighten the legs, keeping them together and straight, lift them up with the power of the arms, tighten the body, point the toes…”

B.K.S. Iyengar: “Rest the crown of the head only on the blanket, so that the back of the head touches the palms which are cupped. Do not rest the forehead nor the back but only the crown of the head on the blanket” (Light on Yoga)

A.G. Mohan does not clarify the exact postion of the head (in Yoga for Body Breath and Mind), but says that ideally the body would be perfectly vertical, pointing to a crown position for the head.

Ramaswami, in his Complete Book of Vinyasa Yoga, just as Mohan, does not specify, but looking at the pictures you can clearly see that it is the crown cupped on the hands and the spine and pose altogether is fully straight.

BREGMA: Almost thinking back bend,
perhaps I am exaggerating it a bit…
BREGMA So here it is without the exaggeration, still the curvature
of the lower back is more pronounced than in the crown
I have noticed that the bregma headstand is not only what I have been doing so far, it is also pretty unstable compared to the crown.

Which part of the head do you place on the mat?

About Claudia Azula Altucher

Claudia Azula Altucher has studied yoga for a long time. Her only focus these past eight years has been on Ashtanga through which she studied at the Ashtanga Yoga Research Institute in Mysore, India (three study visits so far), and at Centered Yoga in Thailand (focus on practice, philosophy and pranayama). Currently she studies at Pure Yoga in NYC. She has taught yoga classes in both Spanish and English. She is also the Author of: 21 Things To Know Before Starting an Ashtanga Yoga Practice (you can get a free PDF at her blog). She writes daily at ClaudiaYoga.com And you can follow her on Twitter: www.twitter.com/ClaudiaYoga

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20 Responses to “Two Types of Headstands: Where Do You Put Your Head?”

  1. John says:

    Never understood the forehead headstand until a handstands expert explained he preferred it because although he felt people tended to put more pressure on their neck in that version it is much easier to press into handstand from… another yoga hangover from gymnastics?

    • Claudia Azula Altucher Claudia says:

      hm, I would wonder… interesting how convenience for the transition into handstand was given priority… maybe a hangover, should there be a hangover yoga movie already?

  2. Yogini5 says:

    The best thing to do is try to put as much weight as possible on your hands or forearms, depending on the variation—II or I that you do.
    Cushion your hairline and/or crown, more than the rest of your base is cushioned. Your head may naturally roll backwards from hairline to crown as you lift into it anyway.
    I don't do a full headstand because of my proportions, neck pain, residual low blood pressure issues …
    If I do a full one, there is a wall to lean on …

  3. Claudia Azula Altucher Claudia says:

    Hi Yogini5 thanks for your recomendations, i do indeed use everything to leverage, and yes the issue of the arms, position of the back etc is very important… guess here I am just focusing on the actual spot of the head that touches the floor. I've been always led to believe it was the front, a bit upwards from the hair line, not the crown. I hear you on blood pressure issues, I get those in many forward bends from standing… not fun.

  4. With the bound hands variation of headstand, I find that it alleviates pressure on the cervical spine to squeeze the hands together so that the palms touch. This causes the headstand to be more on the crown of the head, which facilitates the "crown" headstand. Additionally, it activates the muscles in the neck which assists with protecting the spine, and gives a stronger feeling of stability in the neck. This variation, when first attempted, is very difficult to balance in the center of the room. Additionally, if you are looking to hold a headstand longer, like the 10 minute variety, I have found a lot of success to achieving that type of longevity with this variation. Thanks for the article and pictures.

    • Claudia Azula Altucher Claudia says:

      Andrew that is very interesting. where was it that I saw that type? maybe Integral yoga, how interesting that you bring it up. I can see how it could be difficult but might help the head be closer to the crown. Thanks for the comment.

  5. Tanya Lee Markul tanya lee markul says:

    Thanks for this, Claudia! I didn't know the Bregma existed, but I have definitely been there – feels a bit awkward and can definitely feel the backbend. I did this mostly in the early days of my headstand.

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  6. Katherine says:

    I don't at all, finding headstands to be contraindicated for my neck problems. I will do a modification, where my weight is supported by my arms only, my hair just brushing the floor. Occasionally.

    • Claudia Azula Altucher Claudia says:

      Hi Katherine, and you are very wise not to, it is true that in some cases where there are delicate neck issues they are not good, it is refreshing to hear you don't push and rather respect your body !

  7. Yogini5 says:

    That's remarkable.

    But I am more of the contingent that had avoided practically all inversions for well over a year in their regular practice … even shoulderstand had been painful and tough to do (at my age – not that I am so ancient) …

    • Claudia Azula Altucher Claudia says:

      Yogini5, yeah, I hear you it can take a loong time for some poses… I am not even going to get into dropbacks in my case…. rather talk about the weather :-)

  8. Chris Guzik says:

    Claudia,

    I remember at Kino MacGregor's workshop in Chicago last October she was discussing Sethu Bandasana and mentioned that pressure on the crown of the head helps create an awareness of the spine and vertebrae that would not otherwise become apparent. In the case of crown headstand the spine is not in flexion as it is in bridge pose but I wonder if there is a similar phenomenon here.

    Chris

    • Claudia Azula Altucher Claudia says:

      Chris, that is a very good point, yes this is what the books say too, that the crown helps create more awareness on the spine, and as I have began trying it, I do notice not only more awareness on the spine but also more stability, which is really nice! Thanks for sharing what you learned at Kino's

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  10. Claudia Azula Altucher Claudia says:

    30 breaths? Wow!!! that is some accomplishment… You are welcome on the article, however, the point you bring is an important one, there is an asana right after headstand where one tries to lift the head from the floor and stay there, I believe it works the muscles of the neck/back for later more intense inversions that come in the second series of ashtanga… so, not sure if giving them up all together is necessary… I am impressed, I tried lifting the head for years and can barely do it… appreciate you sharing

  11. Ali says:

    I learned my new favorite word today. So long, antidisestablishmentarianism!
    Thanks for the article :)

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