23 Aug Headstand – Shirsasana – Asanas For All
Welcome to the third episode of ‘Asanas For All’.
‘Asana’ is the sanskrit word meaning ‘pose’ and over the next few weeks I am going to show you how to do some intermediate yoga poses and how, with the use of props and modifications, they can be done by everyone!
Try this invigorating inversion to help you improve your core stability and shoulder strength.
Headstand is known as the ‘king’ of poses and is one that is strongly adviced to be practiced due to its health benefits and the strength it helps to build up throughout the whole body.
The benefits of practicing Headstand:
Builds strength in the shoulders, neck and core
Slows and reverses signs of aging
Stimulates the pituitary and pineal glands
Calms the mind and relieves stress and mild depression
Relieves some symptoms of asthma, menopause, infertility, insomnia and sinusitis
Reverses the effects of gravity on the lungs, diaphragm and skin
Increases digestive fire and increase body heat
Strengthens deep core muscles.
Areas for caution
During Headstand all your body weight is paced on your head which pushes down into the neck muscles. This squashes the discs of the neck, which over time, can cause them to become weaker. In standing poses, we support the weight of our bodies via the pelvis and the long, strong bones of the legs. In Headstand, however, our body weight is supported by the smaller, frailer bones of the neck. If you align the upper back and shoulders properly, you can offset some of the pressure on the neck. But the shoulder joints are relatively less stable than all of the other joints in your body, and it can take years to build up the strength and body awareness to create the necessary support for a properly aligned Headstand.
This pose is considered an intermediate pose and should definitely be performed with care and caution. There are many different modifications and props that you can use to make this pose accessible for everyone.
How to perform Headstand
1. Start in a kneeling position. Place your forearms down on the ground with your elbows shoulder width distance apart. Interlace your fingers with your little finger tucked in, so you make a flat base with your hands and forearms.
2. Place the top of your head down on the mat inside of your hands so just the back of your head touches your hands. Draw your chin towards your chest slightly to remove any stress in the back of your neck. Tuck your toes under and lift your hips until you come to an upside down “V” shape with your body.
3. Walk your feet in towards your hands, until you reach a full stretch in your hamstrings. Stay in this position until your hips are fully over your shoulders.
4. Once your hips are over your shoulders, strongly engage your core muscles, bend your knees and allow your feet to leave the mat. If this is not happening easily for you, stay at Step 3 to build strength and prepare for the pose.
5. Once your toes are extended towards the ceiling, push through the balls of your feet to tone the legs. Engage your core muscles and lengthen your lower back by extending your tailbone towards your heels. Push your head and arms firmly in the mat to alleviate stress on your neck.
6. Soften the head, jaw, eyes, neck and forehead. Keep a steady breath and relax. The weight should be in the shoulders and the elbows rather than the neck. Hold for as long as feels comfortable.
7. To get out of the pose, bend your knees and lower your toes back down to the ground.
8. Rest in Child’s Pose.
Props and Modifications to make it accessible to all
Practicing Headstand against a wall helps to prevent you from loosing balance. This is particularly useful if you have weak core muscles or do not feel comfortable balancing. It also takes away some of the pressure from the neck.
Place a blanket under your head to stop any head pain from a hard floor.
For those students who do not want to take their legs all the way up in the air, keep them tucked in to the body. You will still use the same core muscles and shoulder strength, you just don’t want to worry about falling from a great height.
If you don’t feel comfortable taking the legs away from the floor, then try Hare Pose. In this pose you are still getting all the benefits of an inversion as the heart is higher than the head and you are still getting the crown of the head used to the weight, but you are not putting pressure on the neck, or worrying about balance.
I know that Headstand can be a very scary pose to perform and I put my hand on my heart and say that I have only been able to hold it unaided, in the last couple of years.
Please believe me when I say “YOU DON’T HAVE TO BE ABLE TO DO A HEADSTAND TO BE A GOOD YOGI!!”.
I hope with my modificaitons, you can find a version you feel comfortable with the be able to reap the benefits of this glorious pose, without actually having to perform the full thing.