Headstand or Sirsana is often known as the king of asana. This pose may seems unachievable for new yogi but it is a balancing posture with a firm foundation (crown of the head, forearms and wrists). However, it is something you do not want to rush into as you need a certain level of strength to achieve without hurting yourself.
How to go into Headstand
i. Sit in Thunderbolt Pose
ii. Create a stable base
– Measure out the appropriate elbow width by placing opposite hands at the inside base of your upper arms, keep your elbows in this position as you place them down on your mat. Bring your hands together to create a triangle shape with your forearms and interlace your fingers
iii. Place the top of your head on the mat inside your hands
iv. Lift your hips and straighten your legs
v. Walk your feet toward your head, bringing your hips above your shoulders
vi. Gently bring your knees in toward your chest (once you are stable, straighten your legs)
Muscles & Joints involved
As we go into the pose, the rotator cuff muscles and serratus anteriors shorten while the triceps brachii stabilizes. Our shoulders are the source of strength and support at the foundation. As soon as we come into the headstand position, we rotate and protract the shoulder blades in an upward direction (towards the hips). The serratus anterior is the strongest muscle for carrying out these actions involved in Salamba Shirshasana (Yogawithsapna)
Safety and Precautions
Doing a headstand incorrectly can injure your neck. If you have injuries affecting your neck/ spine, you may need to avoid the pose until fully healed.
A little hesitant to use this quote because but it definitely is a wise truth.
I have never thought about taking up yoga till my best friend invited me to a trial class class about 2 years ago. It started out as a way to get some exercise, but it has turned out to be so much more.
During my practice, there were so many pose I wanted to achieve. But this is also the reason why it stopped me from practicing for some time. I was discouraged when I was unable to to achieve and I actually gave up out of frustration. I started back on mat during circuit breaker where virtual classes were introduced and that was when I realized i missed those practicing and I want it back.
And this time round, my goal is to become more connected to myself and to resist focusing on the outcome but to embrace both my strengths and weaknesses. One way I realized is to set an intention before the the class. An intention that allow me to focus on during the practice and when I step off the mat.
Downward facing dog (DFD) is probably the most commonly cued pose and often the “resting” pose.
Heels are supposed to touch the floor
Not exactly! A student with tight hamstrings or short Achilles tendon* may find heel-to-floor contact challenging. Hamstrings are attached to the sit bones and if they are tight, pelvis will be pulled into a tucked position which strains the lower back. If you have tight hamstrings, save your hamstring stretching for poses that will actually change the length of the muscles instead of pulling other body parts out of alignment and causing unnecessary strain. A student with less range of motion in his/her ankles (reduced dorsiflexion) may not be able to have heel-to-floor contact.
*Achilles tendon is the largest and strongest tendon in the body. When the calf muscles flex, the Achilles tendon pulls on the heel. This movement allows us to stand on our toes when walking, running, or jumping. Despite its strength, the Achilles tendon is also vulnerable to injury, due to its limited blood supply and the high tensions placed on it (https://www.webmd.com/fitness-exercise/picture-of-the-achilles-tendon#1)
Legs have to be straightened
There seems to be an understanding that the “correct” form” of DFD must be done with straight legs. Student tend to straighten their legs when comparing to others. This may cause rounding of backs and taxing the hamstrings. A bent-knee down dog is as much a down dog as a straight-legged down dog.
In conclusion, don’t worry about trying to get the heel-to-floor contact. The “correct” form should be the one that best serves you and at any moment. If your hamstrings are tight, it is ok to bend your knees as much as required as long as you maintain a long spine with pelvis tilted up towards the ceiling.
Go forth and have a more sustainable DFD 🙂
Description of Vata Dosha
Combination of the space and air elements. People with a predominantly Vata constitution are often lean, with dry skin, cold hands and feet and variable digestion tending toward bloating, discomfort, and constipation. Their sleep is typically light, and their lifestyle routines tend to be irregular. When unbalanced, they may become fearful, nervous, and anxious. They are prone to worry, easy to fatigue, and can be impulsive, compulsive, and erratic (Yoga International).
Pranayama for Vata Dosha – Nadi Shodhana (Nadi = channel, gateway or path. Shodhana = cleaning / purifying)
Pranayama is a controlled breathing during which one inhale, hold breath, and exhale in a specific sequence and regulated manner. Nadi Shodhana involves rhythmic, grounding, soothing inhalation and exhalation and is recommended for a Vata body type. It is good for releasing physical stress or stiffness in the muscles/tissues which could potentially promote mental clarity and reduce anxiety. Pranayama can be practiced on a regular basis to calm the predominant Dosha and restore balance and harmony in our mind, body, and soul. One should note that a Nadi Shodhana should not be practiced while suffering from cold, flu or fever.
Practicing Nadi Shodhana Pranayama
- Sit comfortably and bring the right hand into Vishnu Mudra
- Begin the first round by closing the right nostril with thumb
- Inhale long and deep* from the left nostril
- At the end of inhalation, close left nostril with ring finger and hold the breath*.
- Release the thumb from the right nostril, exhale slowly*
- Inhale deeply from the same right nostril, hold the breath* inside and exhale slowly* from the left nostril. It completes the one cycle
- Repeat for 20 cycles
*Breathing Ratio for Nadi Shodhana Pranayama