Sirshasana or the headstand holds a distinct place among Yoga postures. As a beginner it is a milestone several yoga practitioners want to realize. Known as the king of all postures Sirshasna practice comes with enormous benefits. Sirshasana is not a particularly difficult posture to attain, once the steadiness is achieved it may feel like a basic yoga posture, however this pose should be practiced under guidance till one masters it. The minor adjustments matter a lot and there has to be complete awareness of the body and a very relaxed mind while performing this pose.
Use the vedio below as a quick guide or follow the steps below for detailed instructions
Sit down in vajrasana and intertwine your fingers. Lock the fingers densely so that it forms a firm wall which is slightly curved. Raise your buttocks and lean forward to place the sides of your palm, forearms and elbows on the mat. We try to keep the elbows, shoulder length apart and not wider.
Now place the crown of the head on the mat and back of your head against the support wall created by the intertwined fingers. Placing of the neck should be done under guidance as one starts to practice Sirshasana. Slight change in the angle of the neck may cause pain and hamper the overall body balance.
Lift your knees and start walking towards your head. Distance between your head and the toes should be nearly 12 inches.
From this position we try to and lift our toes; knees are close to the chest. Hold this position till your breathe is normal and you feel poised enough to lift your knees up further. Lift the knees to a point where it points upwards and at the same time heels are towards the hip.
Once again feel steady and breathe easy, finally stretch your legs upwards and make your whole body perpendicular to the floor. Keep your thighs and abdomen firm, while the knees, heels and toes should be stretched.
As mentioned earlier make sure the position of the neck is precise. A bend in the neck inwards is troublesome as it can cause major neck injury and a tilt forward may cause one to lose balance. The weight of the body should be managed by the head and not the forearms or the palm. Palm is to support the position of the neck and to keep it steady and the forearms to balance the body and bring it back to the straight position.
If the core muscles are weak or are not held up firmly body will curve from the middle and may waiver a little from the top. A curve in the middle can put pressure on the spine.
If your eyes turn unusually red after holding the pose then one must see if there is any need to correct the posture or reduce the time we hold the pose. Sirshasana should not result into eyes flushed with blood; if this is happening check with your teacher and seek guidance on how to proceed further.
Start with holding the pose for 10 - 20 seconds and then increase the duration 2-5 mins. Some teachers suggest holding the pose for 15 mins and beyond. One must be clear of the purpose of such an exercise; also one must assess if one is physically ready to undertake the same.
Going upside down changes the orientation and getting used to see this the other way round may take sometime to adjust. Be careful when doing Sirshasana in open or new environment, getting used to the visuals may take time to get used to.
Those with high or low blood pressure, high power in the eye, glaucoma, weak retina, pregnant women, spondylitis, slip disk other neck, back or spine related injuries or conditions should consult their doctor and yoga teacher before practicing headstand.
Men travelling to higher altitudes from planes should not perform Sirshasana without proper acclimatization. At higher altitudes blood pressure fluctuates even for otherwise healthy people. So going against gravity suddenly in relatively newer terrain is not advisable.
Never do Sirshasana for that matter any yoga posture to prove a point to oneself or others. Take time, relax and enjoy going upside down. However never be in a hurry - remember to breathe during the pose. if you can be aware of the breathe and be mindful of it, Shirshasana will become meditative in nature.
Headache – Brain – Pituitary Gland: Sirshasana allows the brain to receive more nutrition and oxygen; that enriches and revitalizes the brain cells resulting into better function of the brain. Headache and chronic migraine gets much needed help. Blood vessels leading upto the brain and other parts of the skull experience a change in pressure, which helps in headache related condition. However caution should be maintained while there is a migraine attack or a headache due to other reasons - don’t practice while experiencing headache. Pituitary gland considered as the master gland impacts the functioning of the nervous system and all other glands such thyroid, adrenals etc. this gland is situated at the base of the brain and during Sirshasana it is also flushed with oxygen rich blood and hence improving its performance. Sirshasana positively impacts diseases like thyroid and diabetes as these are directly related to the functioning of the pituitary gland.
If the heart is not strong enough to pump blood to the farthest corner of the body, Sirshasana helps in recirculating toxic blood from the lower limbs and channelize it to the heart again for purification.
Sirshasana requires one to have strong core muscles, to stay upright while being upside down we need to control the body from the mid-section. Core muscles come into use heavily during prolonged holding this aids in building strength around the core.