Sirsasana (headstand) – The Queen of Yoga Poses

by: Jez Heath

Sirsasana meaning headstand is considered to be one of the most important yoga poses. Sirsasana is known as “the queen of poses”, and the reason relates to the effect it has on the brain and mind. The inversion of this pose causes increased and unrestricted blood flow to the brain. This brings increased oxygen, nutrient and vitality providing energy to the mind, clarity of thought and ease of concentration.

Yoga Headstand - SirsasanaThe increased blood flow to the head stimulates the pituitary gland, considered to be the “master gland”, controlling the function of the endocrine system including the thyroid, adrenal gland, ovaries and testes among others. These glands in turn regulate metabolism, growth, blood pressure, sexuality and other fundamental body functions. An imbalance of the secretion of the various hormones produced by the pituitary gland can lead to many serious disorders of the endocrine system.

In yogic terms, the increased blood flow to the head helps to awaken the Sahasrara (crown) Chakra (energy center). Sahasrara is considered to be the most important Chakra intimately connected to, and influencing, all other Chakras and controlling consciousness. It is when the Kundalini energy unites with the Sahasrara Chakra that the yogi achieves Samadhi, becoming enlightened and united with the universe and god.

Benefits of Sirsasana

The increased blood flow to the brain stimulates the pituitary gland which revitalises the mind and central nervous system. The pose is considered to have a profound effect on anxiety and other nervous disorders which can lead to other illnesses, and is therefore used in the yogic treatment of many conditions.

The final position requires muscles in the neck, shoulders, arms, back and abdomen to be active, which strengthens and revitalises the entire body. The inversion changes the effect of gravity on the body, which has an important effect on blood circulation to the legs and head; increases pressure on the diaphragm which aids deep exhalation to expel waste gases and bacteria from the lungs and can relieve the daily effects of gravity on the spine.

Contraindications

Despite many cautions, with a little preparation including strengthening the arms shoulders and neck as well as some practice balancing, Sirsasana can be performed by almost anyone. However there are contraindications and those exhibiting these conditions should not practice Sirsasana.

The inversion of Sirsasana increases the pressure of blood flow to the brain and eyes. It is therefore important the Sirsasana should not be practiced be those with high blood pressure, headaches, haemorrhaging or other brain or blood disorders. Sirsasana should not be practiced by those with eye conditions such as weak eye capillaries, cataracts, or conjunctivitis. Sirsasana should not be practice by pregnant or menstruating women.

Performing the pose

When performing headstand there are a few steps that need to be achieved before the final pose should be attempted. These include building strength in the neck and shoulders and developing balance in the inverted position.

The preparation steps will help to build the necessary strength in the neck and shoulders, and should be practiced until sufficient strength is obtained to hold the final position. Once the neck strength (and sufficient balance) is developed, the weight of the body should be borne by the neck, the arms and hands are only used for support and stability and are not used to bear the body weight.Until balance is developed, it is recommended to practice Sirsasana next to a wall. In this way, in the final position, the heels can be brought into contact with the wall to prevent falling backwards. The feet should be moved away from the wall to learn the correct balance for an unsupported headstand. Kneel facing the wall sufficiently far away so that when placing the head into the hands, the hands are about 20cm from the wall.If you should fall when practicing Sirsasana, bend the body into the fall (forward, backward or to the side) so that it is possible to land on the feet first.

When falling, it is unusual to hurt the body since the height is not great, but be careful not to collapse the neck as this could cause injury – remember to use the arm and shoulder strength to support the body weight.When learning Sirsasana, it is strongly advised to seek the guidance and assistance of a trained yoga instructor who can help support the balance until sufficient experience is gained.

Sirsasana – Preparation steps

Kneel on the floor.Bend forward and place the elbows on the mat below, and slightly wider than the shoulders. The distance can be measured by moving the arms to hold each elbow from the inside.

Without moving the elbows, move the forearms to interlock the fingers, the elbows, forearms and back of the hand should be in contact with the mat.

Lower the head so that the top of the head sits in the hands and is held securely to prevent movement and the crown of the head rests on the mat.

Tuck the toes under and raise the knees from the floor, distributing the body weight between the legs and back. While learning, use the arms to support the weight so the full body weight is not on the neck.

Walk the feet closer to the head, straightening the back and moving the buttocks above the head.

From here, walk the thighs close to the chest, toes on the mat. Raise one foot from the mat at a time exploring the balance and counter balance of the movements.

Sirsasana – full pose

Kneel on the floor.

Bend forward and place the elbows on the mat below, and slightly wider than the shoulders. The distance can be measured by moving the arms to hold each elbow from the inside.

Without moving the elbows, move the forearms to interlock the fingers, the elbows, forearms and back of the hand should be in contact with the mat.

Lower the head so that the top of the head sits in the hands and is held securely to prevent movement and the crown of the head rests on the mat.

Tuck the toes under and raise the knees from the floor, distributing the body weight between the legs and back. While learning, use the arms to support the weight so the full weight in not on the neck.

Walk the feet closer to the head, straightening the back and moving the buttocks above the head.

Slowly and with control, bend the knees and walk the feet in, bringing the thighs close to the chest.

Raise both feet together off the mat, adjusting the body with small movements, to counterbalance the weight of the legs.

Slowly move the feet up, close to the buttocks, using the back muscles, until the feet are pointing up and the knees are pointing down.

Raise the knees, keeping the legs bent and feet close to the buttocks, until the hips are facing forward, the thighs are vertical and the knees are aligned with the buttocks.

Slowly straighten the legs, raising the feet above the knees so that the entire body in aligned. This is the final position.

Relax the legs and feet. Keep the back active to support the spine and hold it straight.

Relax the mind and breathe normally.

Exit the pose by slowly reversing the sequence of steps. Bend the knees, bringing the feet close to the buttocks. Bend at the hips, lowering the knees. Lower the feet and then the knees to the mat.

Relax in child’s pose with the head down for 1 minute to avoid dizziness that may result from the change in blood flow to the brain.

About The Author
Jez Heath is helping real people improve their yoga and their health – mind, body and soul. TotalYogaPractice.com provides professional instruction in your own home through online yoga video so you can practice 24/7. Learn yoga online and make a commitment to transform your health and your life.

http://www.TotalYogaPractice.com

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