Shirshasana (pronounced sher-SHAH-sahn-ah) is probably one of the most famous yoga poses and is considered the king or queen of the Hatha Yoga poses. It stimulates the whole system, improving circulation and strengthening the nervous system, emotions, and brain. Plus, when your body is ready for it, it's fun!
But be sure your body is ready. You must have sufficient arm, shoulder, neck, and stomach strength, plus be well-versed at tadasana (remember back in Chapter 13, "What Do You Stand For?"), the mountain pose, so you can balance your weight evenly while upside down. Otherwise, your neck will hurt. Too much pressure on your head is not good! Your weight should be supported by your arms, shoulders, and the strength of your abdomen. The strength of these areas is developed in standing poses. Develop yourself on your feet before standing on your head.
1. Get down on your hands and knees. Grab your left elbow with your right hand and your right elbow with your left hand.
2. Bring your elbows to the ground and release the hold of your hands. Keep your elbows this distance apart for best support.
3. Interlace your fingers so your arms form a point, then cup the top of your head in your palms at the top of the point, as if your head were inside the apex of a triangle.
4. Slowly walk your feet in toward your body, straightening your back, then slowly raise your feet into the air.
5. Breathe! Try to stay balanced in the head-stand for at least a few even breaths. Then come back down slowly. Remain with your head down for a few minutes before sitting up.
As wonderful a pose as the headstand is, it shouldn't be practiced under certain circumstances. If you have high blood pressure, heart problems, or are pregnant, don't attempt the headstand or any of the inverted poses. You may still be able to do inversions with no problem, but talk to your yoga-friendly doctor first.
6. Getting Started: Balancing in a headstand isn't just a matter of lifting your feet up and hanging out for a while—as your proficiency increases, so does your awareness. Your entire body will be making minor adjustments, tiny movements, little shifts here and there—along your arms, shoulders, hands, neck, back, and legs—to keep you balanced. Notice how your body tries to compensate to keep you balanced. Your body knows. Learn from it!
7. Yoga Adventure: For a really advanced pose, try padma shirshasana (pronounced PAHD-mah sher-SHAH-sah-nah), the lotus headstand; while in the headstand, bring your feet into the full lotus position. (Don't worry, we'll get to that in Chapter 17, "Are You Sitting Down?") To do this pose, which really opens the hips, you must first be very comfortable in the lotus pose and in the headstand. This is definitely an advanced posture. Find a qualified teacher for personal guidance on this one, okay?
Wise Yogi Tells Us
When first attempting the headstand, use a wall for support. The more comfortable and strong you become, the less you'll need the wall, until soon you'll be doing headstands anytime, anywhere!
The lotus headstand—a challenging headstand variation.
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