Headstand (Sirshasana) Does Not Increase the Blood Flow to the Brain

J Altern Complement Med. 2019 Aug;25(8):827-832. doi: 10.1089/acm.2019.0060. Epub 2019 Jul 9.


Objectives: Most yoga practitioners believe that headstand (Sirshasana) results in increased cerebral perfusion. This, however, is not consistent with autoregulation of the cerebral blood flow. The intent of this study was to demonstrate the effect of Sirshasana on the blood flow to the brain through ultrasound examination of the internal carotid artery (ICA). Design, location, and subjects: The ICA blood flow was measured with pulsed Doppler in 20 men and women aged 10 to 59 years (median 43) while performing the headstand (Sirshasana). Seventeen subjects were studied in 2018 in Spain at the altitude of 2,000 m, whereas the other three females were studied at sea level. Results: Although the diameter of the artery under examination during the headstand remained almost unchanged, the decrease in peak flow velocities in systole and diastole caused a significant decrease in arterial blood flow to the brain, followed by return to baseline values immediately after the antiorthostatic postural effect, likely due to the expected consequences of the cerebral blood flow autoregulation of the cerebral blood supply as well as the intracranial pressure. Conclusions: Contrary to popular belief, Sirshasana does not increase blood flow to the brain through the ICA, but results in predictable reduction in cerebral blood delivery in compliance with known mechanisms of autoregulation of cerebral blood flow. Moreover, increased ICA blood flow while performing the headstand is likely to be a contraindication to this exercise.

Keywords: Doppler ultrasound blood flow measurement; Sirshasana; internal carotid artery.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Brain / blood supply
  • Brain / diagnostic imaging
  • Carotid Artery, Internal / diagnostic imaging
  • Cerebrovascular Circulation / physiology*
  • Child
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Ultrasonography, Doppler
  • Yoga*
  • Young Adult