Discover the step by step guide to the King of all Asanas, the Sirshasana (Sanskrit: शीर्षासन). The headstand is known as the “King of Asanas” because of its many benefits. It is the first of the 12 asanas (steady poses) and is considered by many to be a solution for countless human troubles. Man of us sit or stand the whole day which causes circulation to become sluggish, so your heart has to work harder to pump sufficient blood to the upper parts of your body. Normally, your heart works against gravity; inverting your entire body as in this pose lessens the strain on your heart, and allows a plentiful supply of oxygen-rich blood to reach your head and brain.
This pose is not an advanced asana; even so, to begin with you may choose to carry out the Dolphin, progressing to the full Headstand later.
Physical benefits of the pose:
- Relieves varicose veins.
- Warms up extremities.
- Creates a stronger heartbeat.
- Reduces pressure in the lower back.
- Helps to build muscle strength in the shoulder girdle.
- Improves coordination of the body’s voluntary and involuntary functions (nervous systems).
Mental benefits of the pose:
- Calms the mind.
- Improves self-confidence.
- Enhances intellectual capacities.
- Improves body-mind coordination.
- Improves memory and concentration.
- Improved sensory functions (eyesight, hearing).
Counter indications; don’t practice SIRSHASANA in case of
- Recent neck injury.
- High blood pressure.
- Glaucoma or recent eye surgery.
- A severe blocked nose or headache or in the midst of an asthmatic attack.
- When over 4 months pregnant (and if you don’t have a regular headstand practice).
- In case of doubts, check with a physician.
THE CHILD’S POSE
This is a relaxation pose, and is practiced before the Headstand and some other asanas. Sit on your heels, then bring your forehead forward to rest on the ground, your arms lie next to your legs, your hands close to your feet, palms up to the sky. While in this pose, relax and visualize the pose in order to prepare yourself mentally for the Headstand.
The Dolphin strengthens your upper body in preparation for the Headstand. Sit on your heels with your knees together. Measure the forearms by grabbing each elbow with the opposite hand. This indicates the maximum width they can be apart on your mat. Place your elbows about 20 cm in front of your knees on the mat, underneath your shoulders and then make a fist with both hands clenched together without moving the elbows from their spot on the mat. Push firmly into your elbows and forearms to feel you are strongly connected to the earth with your arms. Then straighten your knees, stand on your toes and keep the head up. Rock your body back and forth, bringing the chin in front of the hands then pushing the body back as far as possible. Do 2-3 rounds of 8 or 12 rocks, relaxing in between in child’s pose.
STEP 0 – CLOTHES
Tug your shirt in your pants so it won’t annoy you during the posture.
STEP 1 – ARMS & HANDS
From the child’s pose, sit up on your heels with your knees and feet together.
Catch hold of both your elbows with the opposite hands.
Lean forward and lay your forearms on the ground, directly beneath your shoulders.
STEP 2 – TRIPOD
Let go of your elbows, and interlace your fingers to form a tripod.
STEP 3 – HEAD DOWN
With your arms in the tripod position, lower your head so that the top of your skull touches the ground and the back of it is cradled in your hands. Do not make any abrupt movements. Take the next steps slowly.
STEP 4 – ON YOUR TOES
Don’t move the head, hands or elbows, straighten your knees and push your hips up above your head. The weight is kept on the elbows, keep your elbows in their position.
STEP 5 – WALK FORWARD
Walk the feet forward to your body, keep the knees straight. Your back is straightening as the feet come closer to the head. Keep walking until the hips are on top of the head. Try to already get comfortable in this posture for at least 30 seconds, breathing comfortably, before moving on.
STEP 6 – KNEES TO CHEST
Carefully bend your knees, bringing them to your chest, one by one. Arch your back slightly, as you do when standing up; this will enable you to balance your body in this position, you use your abdominal and lumbar muscles. Do not proceed unless you can hold this position for at least 30 seconds without feeling any discomfort.
STEP 7 – KNEES UP
With your knees still bent, start to straighten your back, make sure it keeps its natural curve. Keeping the knees and feet together, slowly and carefully, raise your knees until they are pointing straight up toward the ceiling. Your feet touch your buttocks. Try to hold this position, keep the concentration on the elbows and keep them on the ground.
STEP 8 – ALL THE WAY
Now slowly straighten you knees and lift your feet up toward the ceiling. Support your weight by keeping the weight on your elbows against the ground. Breathe deeply through the nose into the abdomen.
At first, hold the Headstand for 30 seconds; as you become more skilled at adopting this pose, gradually increase the time to 3 minutes. Always come down before you start to feel tired. Leave the pose slowly and under control following the opposite order of the steps you’ve used to get up in the pose (see below).
COMING OUT OF THE POSE
- You should leave this asana as carefully as you entered it. Do not move jerkily or quickly, or you may lose control and fall.
- Bend your knees and lower them.
- Straighten your legs. Bring your feet to the ground, and then lower your knees.
- Lower your body so that your buttocks rest on your heels as in the Child’s Pose.
- Finally, relax your hands and return to the full Child’s Pose.
- Do not lift your head up straight away. Rest for at least a minute.
Relax in the Savasana (corpse pose) before continuing to the shoulderstand – SARVANGASANA.