The Sanskrit name for headstand is Salamba Sirsasana. It is traditionally known as the king of all asana. Inversions are some of the most important yoga poses. It is tadasana, upside-down. The effects of headstand are extremely beneficial, not only physically, but psychologically and emotionally as well.
The benefits of daily practice of this pose enhance awareness, sharpen attention and improve the memory. On a physical level, there are four major systems in the body that are positively influenced by the practice of inversions: cardiovascular, lymphatic, nervous and endocrine system.
Headstand can be a lifelong challenge. The biggest challenge of headstand is fear. Fear is contraindication to practicing headstand. 80% of the time that is why people cannot get into it. When fear takes over the body, sympathetic nervous system takes over and the “fight-or-flight” response is activated. Heart rate increased, blood vessels can constrict, and the body can involuntarily shake. All of these are bad news for going up into headstand. The other 20% is spinal and core. Everybody is different, so practice with extreme care, patience and with proper alignment.
I can vividly remember the panic feeling when I was told to do headstand on the second week of the teaching training program. The master trainer says, “Now we will do the Headstand.” My belly cringes and my brain screams “No!!” and I start looking around the room to see if there are people who can do it or am I the only person in the class that was not brave enough to turning upside down.
He just basically instructed us to start with the positioning of the arms with the elbows shoulder distance apart. Begin with the knees and forearms on the floor, interlacing the fingers and place the top of the head down on the floor with the back of the head braced lightly against the palms and straighten the legs. Pressing firmly down the forearms, and drawing the shoulders away from the wrist and walk the feet in towards the elbow, to bring my hips as high over the shoulder and kick up the feet toward the sky. Sadly, I tried very hard to kick the legs up to the wall behind me but failed. I didn’t realize that I had put so much pressure on my neck instead on my forearms and ended with a sore behind the neck in every headstand practice. Not to mentioned bruises that I got from the fall.
To be honest, headstand is my asana nemesis. However, yoga had helped me to face my darkest physical fear. My good friends in the class had also helped and make me feel strong enough to take on all kinds of daunting challenges. I have to admit that I have not done a headstand before in my life, but the confidence that was given to me has enhanced every aspect of my life. My alternative to headstand is a tri-pod. I can do this inversion better than the supported/ bound headstand. This pose is not called the King of Asana for nothing.
The pose itself is well within my physical abilities. The challenge is to convince my mind that I could do it and to overcome that paralyzing.
Believe it or not, balance increases through a regular practice; once I learn to maintain stillness then the wall is no longer becomes involved in the pose.
Conquer the fears!