Discover more from The Granny Who Stands on her Head
Why Does Anyone Stand on their Head?
Thought for the Fortnight
From time to time, there is an article about someone standing on their head. This is particularly notable when he or she is fairly old, such as Paul McCartney, now age 80 (yes, can you remember “Will you still need me when I’m 64?”).
Well, I also like to stand on my head (age 81) and have done so for some thirty years. Somebody asked me the other day why I did so. A good question, but the first time it was ever asked.
Strange, you would think I would be asked this all the time. After all, I have written a book called The Granny Who Stands on her Head (subtitled ‘Reflections on Growing Older’ which is what it is about) and even gave this newsletter the same title.
And, perhaps even stranger, I had to stop and think about the right answer.
So why do people stand on their heads? And why do I do so?
Because I was told to
The simplest answer for me is I really like doing yoga. My various yoga teachers over the years have had a section of their class when their students stand on their head – and therefore I have done so as part of the class.
So, one answer is that I keep being asked to do a headstand and, being an obedient person, keep doing so. Perhaps many others are the same.
Because it feels good
But I very quickly discovered that I liked the feeling of standing on my head. It wasn’t simply that the world is seen upside down, but somehow I felt comfortable there. I could close my eyes (which you aren’t supposed to do) and wondered whether I could go to sleep. We tend to stay for three to five minutes.
My first yoga teacher, seeing how much I liked it, said that I was probably a bat in a previous life. Or, perhaps, an opossum. I don’t believe in all that incarnation stuff, but if one does, it may help in some way.
In any case, another answer for me is that I find it pleasurable to stand on my head. Again, it is reasonable to surmise that others feel the same.
Because it is good for one’s health
I was always told that standing on your head was good for your health, but I had to resort to the internet to discover why.
One site (https://www.ndtv.com/health/headstand-benefits-40-plus-women-heres-why-you-should-be-doing-inversions-every-day-2092710) told me that headstands are very good for blood circulation. Inversions (being upside down) are said to reverse the blood flow and increase its circulation throughout the body, but especially the brain. This provides the brain with more oxygen and therefore improves cognitive function.
Sounds good to me.
Another site revealed further information (https://www.healthline.com/health/how-to-do-a-headstand-safely#benefits.) It says that doing a headstand alleviates stress and depression, activates the lymphatic system and strengthens the upper body, spine and core.
Moreover, it enhances lung capacity, stimulates and strengthens the abdominal organs, boosts digestion, alleviates the symptoms of menopause and prevents headache.
Rather a lot of things that you wouldn’t necessarily think of.
But just in case I missed something, I asked my yoga teacher. She noted that standing on your head is very invigorating. It uses opposite muscles than you normally use when standing on your feet, therefore giving the latter a rest and making you feel refreshed. The same effect can happen, she said, when you walk backwards for a few steps after becoming tired from walking forwards or up a hill.
She added that when you stand on your head, it grounds your brain. Aha, I thought, this may explain why I find it so pleasurable. After all, it may strengthen my abdominal organs or improve my circulation, but I can’t actually feel those things happening.
So, there are a lot of reasons why people might want to stand on their head. But I think the main one for me is that it just feels good.
A word of warning
Headstands may be good for you, but they are not to be undertaken by a complete novice. Yoga teachers often require you to have done yoga for at least two years, with a lot of postures that strengthen your neck, before starting on that path. You could easily damage your neck or hurt yourself in a fall.
So, please do not try this at home. You need an experienced teacher assessing whether you are ready for it and showing you what to do.
And what does it look like?
New practitioners of this art tend to start by doing it against a wall. This makes it much easier, as there is less problem with balance, and it is safer as you are less likely to fall.
Over time, you can choose to move a bit further from the wall until you are freestanding. The best practitioners prefer to stand on their head in the middle of a room. I like to be near a wall, but not too close.
There are any number of pictures of people doing a headstand on the net.
But if you want to see yours truly in action, a two minute video can be found below, also on Youtube (
My thanks to Silvie Labatut for the filming and to John Buchanan for putting the video together.