Headstand (sirsasana) is a yoga pose that inspired me at first sight. When I saw it, I was impressed at the ease people were lifting their bottom part, making it seem so light! I was also impressed at their serene face while standing upside down. Although headstand seems to be a challenging pose, it is really supposed to be a relaxing, liberating pose, deserving a part at the ashtanga finishing series. It lowers blood pressure and it is ideal for people with hypertension. Physically, it manifests one’s ability to properly engage their abdominals and being able to balance their body.
When I attempted to do it though, I found it was very difficult for me. I was very scared that I will fall on my back or that I will fall sideways, injuring myself badly. I felt so imbalanced. I soon related this pose with my ability to control my body and my fear. It was a challenge for me and its fulfillment meant to me that I really have improved mentally and physically. I finally did it after consistent and persistent effort, and I would like to share some of the tips that helped me throughout my way. One thing is for sure; you cannot rush into this pose. It takes a lot of strengthening and preparation until you can get into it. You also need to do a proper full body warm up before you attempt a headstand.
- First thing is to strengthen your core with abdominal-focused exercises. Some examples are leg lift-ups, side crunches, planks and side planks. Shoulder strengthening is very crucial; in head stand, 80% of the body weight is supported by one’s shoulders and only 20% by the head. Some great shoulder strengthening poses are elbow plank and dolphin pose. In dolphin pose, try reaching your chest forward and back without moving the rest of your body (arms and feet stay at their original position)
- Once you feel comfortable with dolphin pose and with chest shifting, approach the wall. Interlace your fingers and go to dolphin pose. Rest the flat part of your head (you can identify this part by balancing a book on your head) between your fingers.
- From dolphin, try walking your legs forward till they start lifting from the floor. Curve your middle back till it touches the wall. You are fully supported now; you can just kick your legs up. It comes so naturally!
- You are now doing a supported headstand. At this position, try moving your legs off the wall, one by one. When you feel comfortable with this feeling, move the one leg away from the wall first, then the second. You are in headstand! Listen into your body now, digest this pose and how it feels.
- Final challenge: stay away from the wall! Start from the same dolphin pose with your fingers interlaced. Walk your feet towards you and lift them up till they form a 90 degree angle with your belly. Keep your knees bent. You are already in a form of headstand!! To proceed with straight legs, start straightening the knees, a few inches each, one by one. Breath steadily and with control. Focus your eyes on a steady point. Little by little, your knees will fully contract and you will be standing on your shoulders and head with your legs straight, pointing at the ceiling. Congratulations!
Eleni C. (200hr Teacher Training, April-May 2017)