Sirsasana – Foe to Pal
Sirasana as everyone would agree draws a lot of attention from both the yogi and non-yogi. It is one of the most celebrated asanas in yoga, with BKS Iyengar referring it to as the “king of asanas”. Despite it’s popularity and universal appeal, I held an opinion that it was not for me. My feelings towards Sirsasana were always complex – one of awe and disdain co-existed. I would applaud any individual who could get into a headstand, but scorned at it at the same time, labelling it as acrobatics meant for yoga freaks.
So I was rather stunned when Master Paalu asked us to get into a headstand in the very first class. I was not meant to be in a class that required me to do headstands. My jaw dropped when I saw so many of my class mates get into a headstand with visibly limited discomfort. I had never attempted nor imagined myself to be in an inverted position. But like everything in life, I was in class and there was no way that I could run away from it anymore. So rather recurrently my struggle with the asana began.
Though a perfectly balanced headstand is still to be achieved, this is my journey through it and key steps for anyone who is a complete beginner and has the same mental & physical issues as I did.
Step 1: Recognize that fear exists
The instructions of depression and protraction of shoulder blades echoed in my head, but execution was practically impossible. I frantically tried to kick myself up with no success. However, during these failed attempts, something remarkable happened. I experienced fear, an emotion that one does not experience as we go through our daily activities. Through the process, I understood why Master Paalu had asked all of us a question on the very first day of class – How many of you are afraid of something? At that instance, I was very sure that I feared nothing. In my life so far, I had gone through enough and the worst was behind me. Through my failed attempts I realized that the only thing that stopped me was fear of toppling over. Recognize that fear of doing new things or being in unknown situations will always exist, but fear on the mat and outside is just a defense mechanism to keep us vigilant and focused.
Step 2: Seek Help
Having realized that fear was holding me back, I needed help from someone I could trust and rely upon. That’s when my fiancée came in. I had discussed my fear with him multiple times and he had assured me that it wouldn’t be difficult to overcome. He himself had attempted a headstand recently at a yoga class and that provided me some confidence that with his help, I could get into one too. Thus during one of his visits to Singapore, he put me up into a headstand and let me experience the feeling of being inverted. From there on we kept on practicing till the time I was confident enough to pick myself up against a wall.
Step 3: Equip yourself with the technique and keep practicing
Studying the anatomy regarding the asana helps. It is no magic. Engage the right muscles (your abs, the mula bandha and your forearms to push yourself into the mat) and you will be up there. Every day that I get into a supported headstand, I try to engage my muscles and I know that someday in the near future I will move away from the wall. I have managed to move one leg away from the wall for now.
Sirsasana was extremely challenging, but through the process of doing the asana I learnt something about myself. It has been a fulfilling process and now I look forward to finishing my daily practice with a headstand. For me the learning was to keep an open mind, be grateful and keep practicing.
Tusita (200HR YTT April-June 2017)