How To Do Headstand Yoga (Sirsasana)? Benefits and Variations

how to do headstand yoga

To learn how to do headstand yoga is not an easy process. You have to at first practice some preparatory poses and after that you should practice the step-by-step process of headstand yoga. Sirsasana is not a position for beginners and is best learned how to do headstand yoga is with the help of an experienced teacher.

“Sirsa” means “Head”
“Asana” means “Pose”

The headstand yoga (Sirsasana) is referred to in yoga as the “king of asanas”. In Salamba Sirsasana we see the world upside down.

BKS Iyengar writes in “Light on Yoga” (1995): “The best way to overcome fear is to face what we fear with equanimity”. Salamba Sirsasana, with regular practice, can help overcome anxiety and has many other positive effects.

How To Do Headstand Yoga?

Before doing Headstand yoga (generally called Salamba Sirsasana), preparatory asanas should be practiced. Only when you have mastered them completely, it makes sense to start practicing Sirsasana. In some yoga traditions, this is viewed differently and beginners without yoga experience or preparatory asanas are allowed to do the headstand. This is physiologically dangerous and can increase the fear of standing on your head.

The headstand, like the shoulder stand yoga, is one of the reverse postures. It is best to prepare for a reversal through standing asanas and side turns. Standing and seated forward extensions provide physical and mental preparation so that adverse effects can be avoided, such as headaches, neck pain, tension in the eyes, and the sudden rush of blood to the head or psychological fear of improper execution.

The most basic asana for learning Sirsasana is Tadasana (mountain pose). The posture and alignment of the legs, upper body, and neck are essentially the same in both asanas, even if standing on your legs and standing on your head feels different. Standing postures lead to the strength, flexibility, and perseverance required in Sirsasana.

Gomukha-asana (cat-cow) strengthens the mobility and stability in the shoulders, also Adho Mukha Svanasana (Downward-Facing Dog) opens and strengthens the shoulders. Salamba Sarvangasana (shoulder stand) is an important preparatory exercise for the headstand alongside Tadasana. After at least four months of the regular practice of preparatory and other asanas, you can try the headstand. Those who already practice sirsasana can continuously improve their headstand practice by going back to the preparatory asanas.

Before going to Salamba Sirsasana, performing Ardha Sirsasana and Urdhva Prasarita Eka Pada Sirsasana is helpful. Let’s go through step-by-step instructions on how to do headstand yoga:

1. Half Headstand (Ardha Sirsasana)

how to do headstand yoga

‘Ardha’ means ‘Half’
‘Sirsa’ means ‘Head’
‘Asana’ means’ ‘Pose’

This posture is also called “Dolphin Pose” because it looks like a dolphin on the waves of the ocean.

Though Ardha Sirsasana is a complete posture in itself, many people do it only as a preparation for the Salamba Sirsasana (the full position on the head).

Step-By-Step Instructions

The head should not be more than five to seven centimeters from the wall. Use a folded mat or blanket as a base that will not slip. 

Kneel on the floor. Place your arms on the floor, arms crossed. Open your forearms and clasp your hands against the wall, little fingers below, thumbs above. 

The distance between your knees is the same as that between your elbows. The knees touch the elbows.

Place your head in the middle of the cup-shaped hands. First your forehead, then round your neck so that the crown of your head touches the ground. The arms are pressed into the ground. It is important that the crown of the head touch the ground, not the forehead or the back of the head. 

Lift your knees off the floor so that you are only standing with your feet on the floor. Then run towards the head as far as possible. This pose looks like an upside-down ‘V’.

Focus your attention on your shoulders. The shoulders should be raised and stretched out as much as possible. Keep your shoulders raised and your legs straight.

Tips:

In Ardha Sirsasana, it is important to develop strength. The shoulders and spine should be raised, as should the legs from heels to thighs up to buttocks. The legs should be light and the spine strong.

2. Standing Split Pose (Urdhva Prasarita Eka Pada Sirsasana)

how to do headstand yoga

“Urdhva” means “High”
“Prasarita” means “Stretched out”
“Eka Pada” means ” One foot”

This posture opens the hips and strengthens the legs.

Step-By-Step Instructions

Come into Ardha Sirsasana. Keeping the toes of your right foot on the floor, exhale. 

Lift your left leg straight up towards the ceiling. Both knees are straight. 

Do not let your shoulders sag down or move your elbows outward.

Do not drop the weight of the body on the toes of the right foot, exhale, and bring the left foot down. Let the toes of your left leg down and raise your right leg.

Tips:

It is important in Urdhva Prasarita Eka Pada Sirsasana to shift the body weight from the legs to the torso. Try not to be afraid and adjust to the end position, the headstand.

3. Supported Head Stand Pose (Salamba Sirsasana)

how to do headstand yoga

‘Salamba’ means ‘With Support’
‘Sirsa’ means ‘Head’
‘Asana’ means ‘Pose’

Step-By-Step Instructions

Now from Standing Split Pose, bring both legs up so that one leg at a time is touching the wall, then straighten both legs. 

The whole body is now perpendicular to the floor, the spine straight, the shoulders raised. 

In the beginning, stay in this position for at least a minute, breath evenly, and look straight ahead. Later, you can stand on your head for three to five minutes. Then slowly bend your knees so that they do not hit the floor.

Before you get up, rest your forehead on the floor for a while. For the neck, it is good to lower your head back and down a few times, then turn it right and left.

Tips:

It is important to keep the legs closed in the headstand. The backs of the heels are touching the wall. Keep your buttocks away from the wall without sticking your stomach out. The breath flows smoothly.

Another Variation on How to Do Headstand Yoga ( Salamba Sirsasana)

  • First, come into a kneeling position and place a soft blanket on the floor to support your head.
  • Now place your head on the floor between two hands.
  • Come to your hands and knees with wrists underneath shoulder and knees underneath hips.
  • Make sure elbows should be width apart from your shoulder.
  • Interlock your fingers and try to press your inner wrists to the floor.
  • Slowly move your legs just close to the chest.
  • Bend your knees and try to put your body weight on the head and hands.
  • Firm your shoulder blades against your back and toward your tailbone in order to keep the torso elongated and protect your neck and head.
  • Keep your both feet together and try to raise your legs in upwards direction and at the same time, your body weight fully supported by head and hands.
  • Raise the body so that the body is fully erect in the inverted position like ‘V’.
  • Now try to balance your body weight on head and hands.
  • This is the final position of Supported Head Stand Pose.
  • Stay in the final position for a few seconds if you are a beginner.
  • Breath normally during the final position.

Benefits of Headstand Yoga

The positive effects of headstand yoga can be experienced by observing two basic rules:

1. Stabilization of the body and preparatory asanas before learning the headstand.
2. Learning the headstand with an experienced teacher or yoga therapist.

For healthy people who learn the headstand yoga and practice it regularly with the help of a good teacher, the headstand has many positive effects.

  • Headstand is known as a “rejuvenator” and improves blood circulation in the scalp and face.
  • It promotes the optimal posture of the spine. If the headstand is carried out correctly, the fifth lumbar vertebra is briefly relieved, which gives the intervertebral discs the opportunity to expand.
  • It improves blood flow to the brain, spine, and sympathetic nervous system.
  • Sirsasana helps against varicose veins, kidney colic, and constipation.
  • In the reverse yoga position, the abdominal organs press with their weight on the diaphragm, so that breathing changes. The inhaled air is compressed, which favors gas exchange. Breathing deepens, the lungs are ventilated.
  • Back pain can be resolved by strengthening the neck muscles.
  • It strengthens mental clarity and improves memory.
  • It promotes courage, concentration, willpower, and self-confidence.
  • Sirsasana is one of the best anti-anxiety asanas. It releases stress and calms your mind.
  • It tones abdominal organs and increases digestion power.
  • It strengthens the spine, neck, shoulders, and arms muscles.
  • This yoga posture good for the reproductive system and helps to cure infertility.
  • Within yoga therapy, the headstand is used to heal epilepsy and memory loss.
  • Diseases of the nerves, eyes, or respiratory tract can also be cured.
  • On the kundalini energy level, the headstand activates the moon and sun energy in the solar plexus in the forehead. It works on the sixth chakra (Ajna), the eyebrow center, and the seventh chakra (Sahasrara), the crown.

Side Effects of Headstand Yoga

There are also critical voices about the positive effects of the headstand. In an article by VIVEKA magazine, written by Dr. med. Imogen Dalmann and Martin Soder, the “myth of the headstand” is examined more closely:

“Instead of being happy about the amount of blood that flows down during the headstand, a healthy body does everything in its power to throttle this blood flow back to a normal level. To be able to regulate the blood flow under the conditions of the headstand so that it flows in roughly the same way as when standing or sitting, a certain amount of flexibility is required, one could also say health. ”

Buddha was also enlightened while seated and yoga is about learning to stand on your own two feet, not on your head, the text says. 

If the headstand is done incorrectly, then there can be a serious injury to your neck. In the neck area, small bones of the spine are not designed to bear the weight of the whole body.

It is true that the headstand can be dangerous with high blood pressure. Blood congestion in the head can occur. Even with problems in the neck and neck area, heart problems or eye problems, the headstand should not be performed or only with the guidance of a teacher. 

Precautions and Contraindications

Head Stand Yoga is not so easy to perform because it requires lots of arms and shoulder strength. So before performing this yoga asana, you have to follow some precautions to avoid any health injury and these cautions are –

  • Always start this yoga session with the help of a yoga instructor at the initial stage.
  • If you are suffering from any back, neck or shoulder injury then avoid this yoga asana.
  • If you have low or high blood pressure issues then don’t try this yoga pose.
  • If you are a heart patient then it’s better to avoid this yoga session.
  • Pregnant women should not attempt this yoga posture.

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