Within the path of yoga, mastering Sirsasana (headstand) is a whole journey in itself. A journey filled with ups and down beginning from overcoming fear and doubts and slowly progressing onto
developing self control and inner peace.
Sirsasana is considered to be one of the most beneficial asanas. Its ultimate purpose is to awaken sahasrara chakra. Located at the crown of the head, sahasrara chakra is the centre of energy responsible for the connection to spirituality, peace and enlightenment. For this reason, this asana is often referred to as ‘king’ of all asanas. So let’s say it’s a big deal.
Sirsasana has an endless list of benefits. It revitalises the entire body and mind, relieves anxiety and other psychological disturbances which form the root cause of many disorders such as asthma, hay feve, diabetes and menopausal imbalance. It also helps to rectify many forms of nervous and glandular disorders, especially those related to the reproductive system.
This asana reverses the effect of gravity on the body. Strain on the back is thus alleviated and the reversed flow of blood in the legs and visceral regions aids tissue regeneration. The weight of the abdominal organs on the diaphragm encourages deep exhalation so that larger amounts of carbon dioxide are removed from the lungs (find here a step by step guide to headstand)
As I mentioned in my previous post, Tapas (discipline) is a key element in the practice of yoga. Sirsasana (headstand) is one of those poses that requires a lot of discipline; Mastering this asana takes time, from the initial stage where we learn to balance our entire body upside down on the crown of the head, to the later stage where we develop the ability to hold the pose for longer in order to get the full benefits.
Sirsasana should become like second nature, meaning that although you’re balancing your body upside down, it should feel almost like a normal and natural standing position- completely relaxed and effortless asana. To illustrate this and help his students learn the pose, Swami Vishnudevandanda used to tell them to mentally repeat “my arms are my legs…my arms are my legs”.
When you progress with Sirsasana, you begin to quickly feel the benefits when holding the pose. It naturally puts you in that meditative state, where your thoughts begin to dissolve and all you’re left with is space. No more worries, anxiety, or identity anymore, stillness is all there is.
Look past your thoughts so you may drink the pure nectar of this moment.
After only 3 minutes in the pose, your whole state of mind changes. Your breath and heart rate slow down, thoughts evaporate and no longer have a hold on you, nothing is in the way of you living fully in the present.
As any inversions, headstand works on the endocrine system. There are 7 main endocrine glands in the body that are responsible for the release of hormones like testosterone, estrogen, adrenaline or epinephrine, insulin, dopamine and melatonin into the bloodstream. The endocrine glands correspond to the location of each chakra, the energy centres in the body.
By practicing yoga we increase our prana, or life force, and move it upwards from the base of the spine along each energy centre to reach the final point, sahasrara chakra, located at the crown of the head. It is believed that when this happens, one reaches a higher state of consciousness that enables the complete connection between body, mind and spirit. Headstand definitely helps in that process to regulate and balance the mind and body complex and to awaken the top most chakra.
So here are 5 tips to improve your Sirsasana:
TRAIN YOUR BODY THROUGH THE MIND
The biggest challenge to headstand is not the strength of the body but the weakness of the mind. Fear is is what prevents many students from enjoying the benefits of this powerful asana. As my yoga teacher, Swami Paramananda, once said, visualisation can be a powerful tool in the practice of yoga. When you can see yourself holding a pose mentally, chances are you are able do it on the mat. So whether before going to bed, or during child pose prior to going for headstand, take the time to visualise yourself performing all the different steps of the pose with ease. This will definitely help!
Warm Up, Thumbs Up
Over time and with proper technique holding headstand becomes almost effortless. But until then, remember that headstand is a challenging asana and it should always be performed with a lot of care.
So my advise is to always warm up the body. We usually do a few rounds of the Dolphin pose (inverted V to Plank, but with the weight on the forearms not the hands). This will not only warm up your shoulders but also help you to develop overtime the core strength needed to hold the pose.
Scan Your Body For Tensions
When you’re in the pose, first scan mentally your body for tensions. Begin to relax your feet, legs, and hips especially. After that bring your awareness at the top of your head and consciously press down your crown of the head on the floor; this will help in creating space between each vertebrae and elongate your spine.
Begin with Headstand
Headstand can be practiced at the beginning or at the end. Personally I think it is best to practice headstand as the first asana (after Surya Namaskar). As a powerful inversion it will help to put you ‘in the mood’ for the rest of the practice.
In Chinese Kung Fu it is believed that to master something, it should be repeated a thousand times. So don’t worry if you’re struggling, just remember that it takes time.
And even if you can hold headstand comfortably, there is always room for improvement, right? Headstand is a very mystical asana that has been practiced for thousands of years to help yogis reach a higher state of consciousness; so there is a lot more to it than just being an impressive acrobatic trick.
Did you find this post useful? If you have any other tips or comments, please do share with us. Stay posted, after the king comes the queen, sarvangasana (shoulder stand) in our next post. Namaste!
sources - asana pranayama mudra bandha - Bihar School of Yoga and loads of time spent upside down