How to Safely Do a Yoga Handstand

A yoga instructor offers tips for practicing safe yoga after a social media influencer said she suffered a stroke.

An Instagram influencer and avid yogi is offering a warning after she said she suffered a stroke while attempting a particularly tricky yoga pose. 

Rebecca Leigh of Gambrills, Maryland, posted on Instagram that she had been doing what's known as a "hollowback handstand" in October 2017 when she suddenly felt "a lot of pain" in her neck and head. 

"I tried to put my hair in a pony tail & my left arm was numb," she wrote. "I physically could not get my brain to tell my arm what I wanted it to do."

After two days of feeling "strange," she sought help after noticing her right eye had started drooping and her pupils were different sizes. 

"It was terrifying," Leigh, 40, told SWNS. "It was then that I knew something was very, very wrong."

She went to the emergency room, where she was diagnosed with a stroke. Leigh was shocked.

"I never in a billion years thought I would have a stroke at my age, let alone from doing yoga. Please don’t think I am bashing yoga, I promise I’m not," she wrote. "... But the days of crazy headstands or inversions are over."

Inside Edition spoke to neurosurgeon Dr. Erich Anderer, who showed how a stroke might happen while attempting such a pose.

"If you put your neck into hyperextension ... that can stretch the wall of the artery, which can sometimes cause tears in it ... and restrict bloodflow to the brain," he said.

Yoga instructor Heidi Kristoffer showed the proper way to do a hollowback handstand.

"Make sure that you're breathing and you make sure that nothing is pinching and you just breathe," she said, demonstrating the move to Inside Edition. "Deep breaths are vital for not injuring yourself."

Remember, she cautioned, if you do want to attempt more specialized poses, make sure you don't do so alone.

"You should definitely not be trying advanced postures on your own at home without the guidance of a very skilled teacher," she said.