Headstand Pose, Sirsasana, (shear-SHAH-suh-nuh)
sirsa (means) + asana (pose)
Also Known as: Salamba Sirsasana, Supported Headstand Pose
Flip your world upside down and shift your perspective as you tap into a full body awareness in Supported Headstand.
Headstand Pose Fundamentals
Headstand is dubbed the “King of All Asanas”, due to the many benefits it provides. Inverting and standing on your head will strengthen the entire body and calm the mind.
Supported headstand is one of the variations of headstands. The main difference between this version and the tripod headstand is the placement of the arms.
This pose requires a lot of strength in the upper body and core, as well as a good sense of balance. It is quite challenging, but there are preparatory variations you can perform to reduce the intensity.
Like with all headstands, you will need to learn how to distribute your weight to avoid placing too much pressure on the head and neck. Your arms and shoulders will do most of the work.If you never stood on your head before, it would be best to learn with the supervision of a teacher. That will ensure you are performing the exercise with the correct alignment, and are activating the proper muscles.
The pose is highly esteemed for its ability to return blood to the heart and brain, reinvigorate the cardiovascular system and energize the body. The fresh flow of blood to the head brings mental clarity and may increase memory and focus.
The more you practice, the more you will feel this shift in your mind, and through this, you will notice the effect Sirsasana has on your spiritual journey.
The main benefits of the practice come with continuity – give your body time to adapt to this new position. Don’t feel discouraged if you don’t succeed from the first go, dedication and patience will bring success and rewards, even if the pose seems impossible at a first glance.
Headstand & Yoga Theory
Headstand was first mentioned in old classical texts such as Hatha Yoga Pradipika, Yogasastra, and Srittvanidhi. Except for Hatha yoga, mostly all other yoga types also incorporate this pose, including Iyengar, Ashtanga and Vinyasa yoga.
On the other hand, once you reach the pose, you can use it to practice the seventh limb of yoga – Dhyana, or meditation. Due to the inversion but also the uncommon position of your body, you will naturally turn your attention inwards and become present.
Headstand Pose Benefits
- Strengthens the core, spine, shoulders, neck, arms, and legs.
- Reduces fluid buildup in the legs.
- Stimulates the pituitary and pineal glands.
- The increased flow of blood to the brain may aid with memory, headaches, asthma, depression, and insomnia.
- Stimulates and refreshes the nervous system.
- Boosts concentration and focus, and calms the mind.
- May relieve issues related to the stomach, reproductive organs, liver, intestines, and kidneys.
- Activates the immune system, which boosts detoxification.
- The fresh supply of blood to the head may improve hair health.
How To Do Headstand Pose: Step-By-Step
How To Get There:
1. Start in Table Top Position. Place your forearm on the floor and cup your hands together by interlacing the fingers, forming a triangle between the hands and shoulders.
2. Place your head on the floor, pressing the back into your hands.
3. Firmly press down with the elbows and forearms, so your head isn’t bearing any weight.
4. Lift your knees and hips and straighten the legs, as you would for Downward Facing Dog.
5. Walk your feet in until your hips are directly above your shoulders.
6. Use your core strength to lift your legs off the floor. You can also hop your hips up with bent legs.
7. If your legs were bent, extend them and find a straight line from your head to the ankles.
8. Hold for as long as you’re comfortable. Release slowly and with caution.
Tips And Tricks:
- When you’re just beginning to learn balance poses, it’s always best to practice against a wall. However, don’t put too much weight into the wall – use it only to support you if you begin to fall back.
- Slowly adapt to the inversion by practicing for short periods of time – a couple of breaths will be enough.
- Release the pose consciously, using the strength of your core.
- Press your forearms firmly into the ground to help you with the lift-off.
- Never force yourself to practice – headstand may not be available to you every day, depending on your physical and emotional state.
- Always keep the core tight – when entering, holding, and exiting the pose.
- Activate the shoulders and don’t sink into the neck.
- The pose is traditionally followed up by shoulderstand, but make sure you rest in Child’s Pose before you continue with your practice.
Headstand Pose Variation:
Supported Headstand Variation: Supported Headstand With Bent Knees
You don’t need to fully extend your legs overhead. Practicing with bent knees may be a big enough challenge when you’re still learning.
Still, maintain a straight spine and keep your hips straight above your shoulders even if your knees are bent.
Supported Headstand Variation: Headstand Prep
If you don’t feel comfortable lifting your legs off the ground, you can still enjoy many of the headstand benefits with this prep.
Set up just as you would for the Supported Headstand, your hands cupping your head and your forearms on the floor. Tuck your toes, lift your knees off the ground and extend your legs.
The position will be similar to Downward Dog Pose. Walk your feet in as much as you can, and hold here. Ideally, your hips will come above your shoulders, just as they would with your legs lifted.
Supported Headstand Variation: Tripod Headstand
Some find Tripod Headstand easier, and some more difficult than a Supported Headstand. It may be best to attempt both variations to see what works for you.
For Tripod Headstand, you will also begin on all fours in the Table Top position. Not changing the position of your arms, bring the top of your head to the floor, to form a triangle with your palms. Then push into your arms, tuck your toes and lift the knees. Perform all the other steps just as you would for a Supported Headstand.
Alternatively, you can also place the knees on top of the arms, above the elbows, in a variation sometimes called the Cosmic Egg Position.
Precautions & Contraindications:
Using Momentum. To make this pose safe, never use momentum to lift your legs. Always use strength to enter the position. Jumping up puts you at risk of falling, injury, and bad form.
Putting Too Much Pressure On The Head. Your head shouldn’t bear any weight in this pose. Some teachers even instruct leaving it slightly hovering off the ground. Instead, place all weight on the shoulders and forearms.
Injuries and Conditions
Refrain from practicing the Supported Headstand if you have any issues with the neck or eyes. Also, avoid it if you have low and high blood pressure, glaucoma, heart conditions, or are currently pregnant or menstruating.
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