”No one is ever satisfied where he is”, said the switchman. …”Only the children know what they are looking for”, said the Little Prince.”They waste their time over a rag doll and it becomes very important to them, and if anybody takes it away from them, they cry”…
The Little Prince continued touring the world, without forgetting the fox’s advice, so despite being surrounded by adults, he continued thinking, acting and being a child. He met a switchman, after talking for a while about where people go and their goals, He concluded that only children know where they are looking for.
Properly performed, this asana provide enormous physical benefits. Moreover, surmounting the fear and anxiety that you may encounter in the process will help give you great confidence, not only in your asana practice, but in yourself and your power to meet life with equanimity and courage. When that happens, standing on your head will have changed from child’s play yoga. Then, in those inevitable moments when your world turns upside down, you will know from your own experience that you can draw on a place deep within yourself that allows you to embrace each moment, upside down or not, with open eyes, open arms and an open heart.
SALAMBA SIRSASANA – SUPPORTED HEADSTAND POSE (variation)
Use a folded blanket or sticky mat to pad your head and forearms. Kneel on the floor.
Lace your fingers together and set the forearms on the floor, elbows at shoulder width. Roll the upper arms slightly outward, but press the inner wrists firmly into the floor. Set the crown of your head on the floor. If you are just beginning to practice this pose, press the base of your palms together and snuggle the back of your head against the clasped hands. More experienced students can open thier hands and place the back of the head into the open palms.
Innhale and lift your knees off the floor. Carefully walk your feet closer to your elbows, heels elevated. Actively lift through the top thighs, forming an inverted “V”. Firm the shoulder blades against your back and lift them toward the tailbone so the front torso stays as long as possible. This should help prevent the weight of the shoulders collapsing onto your neck and head.
Exhale and lift your feet away from the floor. Take both feet up at the same time, even if it means bending your knees and hopping lightly off the floor. As the legs (or thighs, if your knees are bent) rise to perpendicular to the floor, firm the tailbone against the back of the pelvis. Turn the upper thighs in slightly, and actively press the heels toward the ceiling (straightening the knees if you bent them to come up). The center of the arches should align over the center of the pelvis, which in turn should align over the crown of the head.
Firm the outer arms inward, and soften the fingers. Continue to press the shoulder blades against the back, widen them, and draw them toward the tailbone. Keep the weight evenly balanced on the two forearms. It’s also essential that your tailbone continues to lift upward toward the heels. Once the backs of the legs are fully lengthened through the heels, maintain that length and press up through the balls of the big toes so the inner legs are slightly longer than the outer.
As a beginning practitioner stay for 10 seconds. Gradually add 5 to 10 seconds onto your stray every day or so until you can comfortably hold the pose for 3 minutes. Then continue for 3 minutes each day for a week or two, until you feel relatively comfortable in the pose. Again gradually add 5 to 10 seconds onto your stay every day or so until you can comfortably hold the pose for 5 minutes. Come down with an exhalation, without losing the lift of the shoulder blades, with both feet touching the floor at the same time.
How you come out of Sirsasana (or any pose, for that matter) is as important as how you go up. To come down, you essentially reverse the process of going up. As you exhale, bend the knees and lower them toward your chest, but keep lifting your shoulders and mid-thoracic spine. Lower both feet to the floor, maintaining the height of the hips and the length of the abdomen, so that you control your descent the whole way down. Always rest with your head down for at least half a minute, or until your head feels clear, before you sit up.
High blood pressure.
Low blood pressure.
Pregnancy: If you are experienced with this pose, you can continue to practice it late into pregnancy. However, don’t take up the practice of Sirsasana after you become pregnant.
Sirsasana is considered to be an intermediate to advance pose. Do not perform this pose without sufficient prior experience or unless you have the supervision of an experienced teacher. Some schools of yoga recommend doing Sirsasana before Sarvangasana, others vice versa.
Balance in this pose is difficult at first. Perform Sirsasana against a wall. Bring the knuckles of the clasped hands to the wall. If possible, do the pose in the corner of a room, so that the right-angled walls touch your shoulders, hips and outer heels.
Check the position of the inner wrists in the pose. They tend to fall outward, shifting the weight onto the outer forearms. Turn the pinkies away from the back of your head, and inward, press the wrists actively into the floor.
Beginners tend to take too much weight onto the neck and head when coming into and exiting this pose, a potentially harmful situation. Prepare to do this pose as described above against a wall. To come up, set your arms in place and lift your head slightly off the floor. Move into the wall-supported position with the head off the floor, then lower it lightly onto the floor. Support 90 to 95 percent of your weight on your shoulders and arms, even if it means staying for only a few seconds. Gradually, over time, take more and more weight onto your head, but proceed slowly. Similarly, when you exit this pose, first lift your head off the floor, then bring your feet down. Eventually you will be able to keep your head on the floor when going up and coming down.
Stimulates pituitary and pineal glands, which aid growth and the production of sex hormones.
Strengthens the spine, neck, shoulders and arms.
Tones the legs and abdominals
Relieves a buildup of fluid in the legs and feet.
Allow a healthy, pure blood flow to brain cells.
Stimulates the nervous system.
Aids in the treatment of headaches, anxiety, asthma, sinusitis, hay fever, depression, diabetes, insomnia, and symptoms of menopause.
Increases mental awareness and clarity.
Calms and soothes the mind.
May reverse the effects of lethargy, sleep loss, and memory loss.
Calms the brain and helps relieve stress and mild depression.
Stimulates and strengthens the lungs, facilitating healthy breathing.
Improves posture and digestion.
Aids in the relief of tonsillitis, persistent coughing, common cold, bad breath and palpitations
Helps overcome problems of the liver, kidneys, stomach, intestines and reproductive organs by reversing the pull of gravity.
Provides an opportunity for experimenting safely with the unfamiliar and the fear it engenders. Headstand can be scary. It literally turns your world upside down. Beginners may become disoriented, unable to tell left from right and top from bottom.
But, as B.K.S. Iyengar says in his section on Sirsasana in Light on Yoga, “The best way to overcome fear is to face with equanimity the situation of which one is afraid.”
Fortunately, disorientation in Headstand subsides fairly quickly. With regular practice, you can begin to experience the benefits which led the yogis to call Sirsasana the King of Asanas.
Salamba Sirsasana is not a pose for raw beginners. Proficiency in some preliminary asanas will speed our learning and go a long way toward preventing problems in headstand.
The most fundamental asana for learning Sirsasana is Tadasana (Mountain Pose). The actions of the legs, torso, and neck are essentially the same in both poses, although these actions feel different when you turn topsy-turvy and reverse your body’s relationship to gravity.
The standing poses develop the strength, flexibility, and endurance you need in Sirsasana. Gomukhasana (Cow Face Pose) can help provide the necessary increase in shoulder mobility ; Adho Mukta Svanasana (Downward Facing Dog) also opens and strengthens the shoulders and introduces you to a mild inversion.
Salamba Sarvangasana (Shoulderstand) is second only to Tadasana as a preparation for Sirsasana. Shoulderstand tones your spinal muscles, teaches your legs to lift your body (keeping the spine free from compression), and allows you to confront and reduce the fear and disorientation that can arise in inversions. After at least four months practicing these (and other) poses, you my be ready to Sirsasana.
Even if you already feel accomplished in Headstand, you can learn a lot from going back to the foundations of the pose. Begin by placing a folded sticky mat on the floor to cushion your forearms, wrists, and hands. Use the firmest, thinnest padding you can and still be comfortable.
A firm base will provide you the resistance required to get a good lift in the pose. (If you want to use a blanket for more padding, make sure you put it on a sticky mat to prevent it from sliding around). Arranging your padding parallel to a wall rather than diagonally or haphazardly will help you orient yourself once you’re upside down.
Kneel in front of your padding and place your elbows shoulder-width apart near the front edge of your support. (The edge gives you a point of reference for placing your elbows evenly). Interlock your fingers right up to the webs an keep them relaxed. A loose interlock invites instability; rigid fingers will create unnecessary tension. Align the wrists perpendicular to the floor and center your weight on the edge of the forearm bone, rolling neither in nor out.
Still kneeling, place the crown of your head on your padding and move the back of your head directly into your hands. To prevent the cervical vertebrae from collapsing into one another, firmly press the forearms and wrists into the floor. This grounding lifts the shoulders away from the head, creating space in the neck. Practice first lifting and then dropping the shoulders a few times so the distinction is clear. Then keep them lifted and raise your knees, keeping your feet on the floor.
If possible, hold this position for 30 or 60 seconds, but come down immediately if your shoulders droop or you experience any discomfort in your neck. Practice for a few days or weeks until you can maintain the lift of shoulders for at least a minute.
Avoid jumping into Headstand
At this point, you may feel an urge to move on quickly to the final pose. A little hop and you’re there, right? Many students become impatient and frustrated with continuing to practice preparations when the goal seems so near. Why not just go for it?
if you haven’t fully understood and accomplished the earlier work for the wrists, forearms, shoulder, and upper back, you won’t come into proper alignment in the full pose. Instead of creating problems you’ll have to correct later, you’ll do better to spend the weeks or months you need to master the correct later, you’ll do better to spend the weeks or months you need to master the correct actions in your upper body.
This preparatory work is an opportunity to bring true yoga into your practice. Standing on your head is not yoga. Kids do it all the time, so do circus performers.
What makes Sirsasana yoga is an exquisite attention to balance and alignment, an inward movement of awareness that heightens your sensitivity and stability, and increased willingness to be in the moment. If your shoulders and upper back are collapsing into your neck, you need further practice to build your foundation.
Throwing yourself up into Headstand before you’re ready may make you feel like you‘ve gotten somewhere, but that somewhere won’t be where you thought you were going and in the long run, you’ll discover the you’ve taken a detour, not a shortcut.
PHOTO BY 📸: Gabriel Machado / MACHADO CICALA MORASSUT 🙏🏻✨🌟🙏🏻