I must admit, when I first learnt this pose, I wanted to master it for the outcome and for how the final pose looked (alright fine, for a photo to post on Instagram too). The pose never came to me as I rushed to get it right. It was only when I steered my intentions to be on more of a process-based approach, did I manage to get the alignment right and and it was really surprising to experience such a strange but addictive calmness in both my physical body and mind.
Salamba Sirsasana, means supported headstand, is one of the basic forms of inversions that a yogi can attempt. To me, inversions are an expression of the absence of fear. I’m sure I speak on behalf of most people when I say that inversion poses can be extremely intimidating. Being upside down feels very foreign, especially for the first few times, and if not executed properly, it can lead to accidents and severe dizziness. Of course, it is important to have the bodily strength in order to achieve this pose but overcoming of the fear of being upside down is as pertinent.
“Yoga is the practice of quieting the mind” – Patanjali (Yoga Sutra 1.2)
Headstand brings about a lot of benefits and I will touch on the few that resonates most with me. While performing this asana tones your abdominal muscles and strengthens your arms, legs and spine, the biggest benefit that I receive is not physical in nature, but instead, has to do more with the mind. When performing this pose, it produces a calming, therapeutic effect on the brain that relieves stress and even mild depression. It is said that one can only truly enjoy the benefits of this pose after staying in it steadily for at least 3 minutes. Struggling to get into and stay in the pose will be challenging at first, but with a lot of effort and practice (as with everything else), it will become effortless in the end. Eventually, as you learn to breath steadily in this pose, waves of tranquil will gently engulf and suddenly, your mind goes quiet. When I feel stressed or too anxious, this is definitely my go-to pose and I admit I have done this asana secretly in carparks, meeting rooms, study rooms (anywhere you can think of really!) just to get it out of my system.
I’d also like to share some personal tips that have helped me tremendously in my headstand practice:
– Keep your elbows close to your head for more stability and avoid letting them flare out to the side
– When in dolphin pose in preparation for headstand, try to walk the legs as close as possible towards the elbows, in order to stack the hips on top of the spine
– Keep most of the weight on your arms by pressing into it, rather than collapsing the weight on the crown of the head/ crushing your neck
– Don’t shrug your shoulders and depress them instead
– Engage your core, pull your navel towards your spine and tuck your tailbone such that you don’t arch your back in the pose
– Reach your toes up, like you’re stretching yourself towards the sky for more lift
– BREATHE steadily and evenly!
– Come down as lightly as possible and take a well-deserved childs pose
And with that, what are you waiting for? Get upside down and you’ll know what I mean 🙂