Salamba Sirsasana. Salamba = supported, sirsa = head, asana = pose
Lots of my students ask me for help in headstand, and I don’t always have time to help everyone individually in my busy classes at Triyoga. So here are some tips:
Headstand is a balance, if you feel you are holding on for dear life, chances are you are arched and having to grip/clench hard to stay up. It is less effort once balanced, remember you are looking for Sthira Suckham in each pose. This is why the wall is useful in the beginning – it can teach you how it feels to balance, with your body aligned. Headstand should be learnt once you have been practicing consistently for 6-12 months, and have learnt how to support your body with your armpit chest/shoulder blades and legs. First things to focus on when learning are:
1) wrists must be upright. Inner and outer wrists equally upright. Hands cupped- not collapsed out, and not joined at palms
2) elbows shoulder width
3) shoulders must lift strongly away from ears, the back of your body must lift and lengthen up, lift hips up (don’t collapse the lumbar)
4) abdomen must be soft and long, with arms, shoulders, legs and hip muscles doing the work: arms rolling out and pressing down, the rest lifting up strongly
Using the blocks behind your thoracic spine stops you from pushing your back forward and compressing your neck – and teaches you to lift up:
Put your knuckles against the wall (as close as possible), place crown of your head just inside your hands. Place your knees inside your elbows so your back has to curve and lift. From here, lift your knees off the ground and hips up. Walk your feet in, lifting hips. Get a friend to put the blocks between your shoulder blades and the wall. Then lift one leg as high as you can, and swing the other up to the wall.
Work in the pose:
Slide your heels up the wall, activate your legs by keeping kneecaps firm/quads lifting, lift your buttocks towards your heels and engage the muscles of the gluteal crease. Move tailbone into your body. Press buttocks forwards, inner thighs back. If this is hard to implement, put your buttocks against the wall and slide them up the wall, before taking them off and balancing with just heels on wall. Keep your body symmetrical in the pose.
Once you’ve learnt to balance upright comfortably, with knuckles against the wall and rest of body off the wall, you can move away from the wall. This progression with take different amounts of time for different students.
Headstand ensures fresh blood flow to the cells of the brain, pituitary gland (metabolism, growth, thyroid, pain relief hormones, and water balance via kidneys) and pineal gland (which produces melatonin, a hormone regulating sleep and connected to nervous system functioning). Increased blood flow to these glands rejuvenates, nourishes, and stimulates. People who practice headstand regularly experience increased vitality, immune functioning, capacity to think, and ability to relax and sleep soundly.
Headstand should be practised with the guidance of an experienced teacher.
Do not practise headstand during menstruation, if you have neck or back problems, a heart condition, or if you suffer from high or low blood pressure. If you experience discomfort or pressure in your eyes, neck, or ears, come down. Don’t attempt during pregnant, unless you are an experienced practitioner.