Sirsasana (Headstand) is praised by yoga practitioners as the King of Asanas. It is an advanced pose that by the look scares a lot of practitioners, including myself. It also requires practice, which in my case, I’m still yet able to ease myself into the pose, rest there and ease myself out of it after nearly 2 years. This is one of the pose the practice of which fully embrace tapas – the quality of discipline and determination, from overcoming fear to improving core strength and control of hip movement till the total concentration when getting into and staying in the pose.
Headstand is typically practiced at the ending sequence of a yoga session before savasana or at the very beginning (in Iyengar yoga style) for intense warm-up. The pose focus one on holding oneself together (tightly) to the midline of the body with a strong upper body base and stable upright body tied together by the control and strength of the sacrum area. The energy flows toward and beyond the head to activate the crown chakra.
Beside the adventurous look the pose itself requires greath strength, precision and focus. However surprisingly when assessing from the anatomical point of views, we can see the reason why this pose is meant to be a resting pose. There is no muscle lengthening and everything is either contracting or stabilizing, one stacking over another in a single plane.
In headstand, the upper body forms a firm base with essential contacting points being the crown of the head, forearms and wrists, all of which are glued together to hold the body. The shoulder blades are depressed, releasing any tension from the cervical spine, as the result, release weight from the head. The rotator cuff muscles and serratus anteriors are shortening while triceps brachii are stabilizing, which help keeping the shoulders and arms steady.
Rectus abdominus, spinal extensor and flexors, and iliopsoas are all stabilized.
With the sacrum in control, the pelvic floor muscles are shortening and the entire upper body forms a solid base, leaving the lower body relax in the upright position. Except for the shortening quadriceps and leg addudtor muscles, other side and back leg muscles are in balance including hamstring, tensor facia latta, gluteus maximus and lower leg muscles.
Breaking down Headstand from the anatomical point of view helps to plan suitable exercise in preparing for this pose.
• Start simple with plank and chaturanga dandasana to familarise with the stable state of shoulders, hips and abs;
• Then move to dolphin with practice of lifting one leg perpendicular to the floor and tiptoeing the other (even lift it off the ground) to gauge the upper body strength and the tighten the sacral spine.
• Finally, get yourself a wall, prepare your arms, heads and shoulder, lift your hips up, knees to chest or lift your legs u straight up to the wall, one by one for a start.
Of course, remember that there may not be a wall available all the time, so be brave and lift your feet off the wall!
Enjoy seeing the world upside down!