Sirsasana – The "King" of Asanas

Salamba Sirsasana is a supported headstand. Essentially Tadasana but upside down, so your body needs to be balanced, relaxed but engaged as you rest your weight on the crown of your head, supported by your forearms or hands in a tripod or triangular position. Many students begin with using a wall to lean or rest against until the become comfortable enough to attempt it “freestanding”. It is known as the “King” of poses and many yoga practitioners will always ensure that their daily practice includes this asana.
The name comes from the Sanskrit words Shirsha (शीर्ष, Śīrṣa) “head” and Asana (आसन, Āsana) which means “posture” or “seat”. There are many inverted asanas but headstand and salamba savangasana (shoulderstand) are considered to be both advanced and highly beneficial physically, emotionally and psychologically. There are several variations to the basic headstand such as:

Salamba Shirshasana 2 Headstand 2
Salamba Shirshasana 3 Headstand 3
Baddha Hasta Shirshasana Bound Hands Headstand
Baddha Konasana Shirshasana Bound Angle Pose in Headstand
Eka Pada Shirshasana Single Leg Headstand
Mukta Hasta Shirshasana Free Hands Headstand
Parivrttaikapada Shirshasana Single Leg Revolved Headstand
Parshva Shirshasana Side Headstand
Parshvaikapada Shirshasana Single Leg Headstand
Upavishtha Konasana Shirshasana Seated Angle Pose in Headstand
Urdhva Padmasana in Sirsasana Upward Lotus in Headstand

How to do Sirsasana
Step 1:  Start by facing the wall and then interlace your fingers but leave space between your palms, place your forearms firmly against your mat so your elbows are positioned shoulder-width apart. Make sure the tops of your wrists are stacked directly over your lower wrists.
Step 2:  Place your knees on the mat and tuck your chin toward your chest and place the crown of your head onto the mat right in front of your hands. Keeping your toes on the floor lift your knees up off the mat. Walk your toes in toward your elbows as far as you comfortably can, with your back straight. Push down into your elbows to keep your shoulders lifting. Away from your ears!
Step 3:  Once you can’t lift your hips any higher, lift one of your legs and bend the knee drawing it tight into your chest. Bring your hips to the wall and both knees into your chest.
Step 4:  Next, either one leg at a time or simultaneously, straighten your legs up the wall. Flex your feet so that the only part of your body touching the wall is your heels. Draw your tailbone up towards your heels and engage your core. Remember to lift your shoulders every few breaths. Hold and breathe for up to 25 breaths. Then slowly return to the floor and go into Balasana to counterpose.
What are the Benefits?
Like most inverted positions, the practice of sirsasana may increase the flow of blood to the brain, improve memory and other functions of the cerebrum. Included in the physiological benefits are the drainage of blood and lymph, which have to work against gravity to return from the legs. Any inversion, when the legs are held over the heart, helps to move stored fluids into the core for reoxygenation, filtration and elimination of waste material.
Sirsasana directs the blood that is pumping out of the heart towards the brain, allowing oxygen-rich blood to flow freely through the blood vessels that surround it. The pressure in the feet reduces greatly as the pressure in the head increases.
With this increase of blood flow to the brain the pineal and pituitary glands both benefit from better circulation and stimulation, which then has a positive impact on the endocrine system. Being in sirsasana also encourages deeper breathing and this helps in de-akalining the blood.
In maintaining the pose, a great deal of balance and concentration is required – this helps with mental clarity and focus and also benefits the muscles used in holding the pose – than neck, core and thighs especially. Sirsasana can help lift your mood and will also be a useful tool to help in staying quiet and focussed for meditation.
What are the Contraindications?
The asana is contraindicated if you suffer from high blood pressure, heart palpitations, glaucoma, detached retina, conjunctivitis, brain disease, brain injury, menstruation and pregnancy (there are different schools of thought on this), obesity, hypertension, hypotension, hiatus hernia, neck injury, and back injuries.
Inversions are very important yoga asanas but they must be practiced with extreme care, patience, and proper alignment. They are advanced asanas and it may be that not everyone is suited to practicing this particular asana. If someone has any of the conditions listed then they should be practicing yoga with caution and refrain from sirsasana.
If you can practice this asana every morning and evening it will bring a greater sense of calm as well as many health benefits.
Caramaya 200Hr. TT Nov 2014