Supported Handstand Pose
Sirsasana, Shirshasana Sirshasana, or Headstand pose. Sanskrit: शीर्षासन; Sa – With, Alamba – Support, Sirsa – Head, Asana – Pose; Pronounced As – sah-LOM-bah shear-SHAHS-anna. This pose entails a complete inversion of the body, with only the support of the forearms. This asana is said to be the king of all asanas. It needs to be done when your upper body is strong enough to hold the body weight. Hence, you need to practice a whole lot of other asanas to build the strength required to do the Sirsasana.
This asana must be done only on an empty stomach. You need to make sure to have your meals four to six hours before your practice and give your body enough time to digest your food. Ideally, there needs to be a 10-12 hour gap between your meals and your practice, which is why it is best advised to practice this asana early in the morning. However, owing to busy schedules, a lot of people find it hard to work out in the morning. Such people may practice yoga in the evening. Your bowels also must be clean while you practice this asana.
Benefits of Supported Handstand Pose
Headstand pose totally calms the mind and relieves stress in an instant owing to the intense stretching. It can also cure mild depression. It is known to stimulate both the pineal and pituitary glands. Headstand pose draws fresh blood into the upper body while stimulating drainage and circulation to the legs. The lungs, spine, arms, core and legs are strengthened with this asana. The abdominal organs are toned, and digestion is improved. This asana also works on the reproductive system and helps cure infertility with regular practice. It also relieves menstrual and menopause symptoms. It helps cure sinusitis, asthma, and infertility.
How to Do Supported Handstand Pose (Salamba Sirsasana)
- Start your Headstand journey by practising Dolphin Pose. Once you are able to stay in Dolphin for 25 breaths, you can start working towards Headstand.
- To find the right head placement on the floor, place the heel of your hand on the bridge of your nose and notice where your middle finger reaches the head. That’s the spot you want to place on the floor.
- Start in all fours, your elbows directly under your shoulders.
- Take hold of the elbows with the opposite hands to ensure that your elbows are shoulder-width apart.
- This alignment is essential to build the right foundation for your pose and access your upper body strength.
- Tuck your toes under and come up into Dolphin. Bend your knees if needed, to find length in the spine.
- Interlace your fingers, tucking the bottom little finger in. Snuggle your head in your hands. Root the forearms in the floor. Tuck your toes and lift your hips up. Keep your knees bent if you need to.
- Bend one knee into the chest, then the other knee, keeping most of the weight in your arms. On an inhalation bring your legs up in line with the rest of the body: hips above shoulders and ankles above hips.
- Lengthen the tailbone up towards the heels. Root your elbows down and knit your ribs in. Keep breathe.
- To come out of the pose, bend your knees and bring your feet to the buttocks, knees to the chest, and with control place your feet back on the floor. Rest in Child’s pose.
It is important to start practicing the Supported Headstand position first before trying the full pose and its other variations. Enter the pose by lifting your straightened legs simultaneously. Do it slowly to limit the amount of cervical flexion and achieve moderate weight loading. If you have a lower back issue, then this variation may be a bit problematic. An alternative is to raise both knees into your chest to come into a tuck position. Then, straighten the legs.
The alignment of your legs and torso when you are in the full pose is key, so make appropriate changes as needed to achieve a proper position. Very often, students do Supported Handstand Pose with their butts sticking out and their feet over their foreheads instead of over their hips. This throws the whole pose off. To avoid this problem, tuck your shoulder blades firmly into your back and make sure your heels stay over your hips.
Supported Handstand Pose for Beginners
As a beginner, there is always the tendency to weigh your head and neck down. This is harmful. So, it is best to use the support of a wall when you begin. As you start off, place your hands in position, and lift your head slightly off the floor. Then, gently lower it, while you put about 90 percent of your body weight on your arms and shoulders. As you practice, keep transferring more weight to your head. The process must be gradual. As you exit the pose, lift your head slightly off the floor before you put your legs down.
Whether you choose to practise the Full Handstand Pose or not, building up strength in the arms, shoulders and core first is essential preparation. Core strengthening work will help with all inversions. Simply holding Plank Pose and Downward Dog for 1 to 2 minutes is a great place to start. Next, work on Dolphin pose, and then Forearm balance or Handstand to get used to being upside down without any weight on the neck. This preparation work will help you with your whole yoga practice and in many ways is more challenging than being in Headstand - so be patient!
Supported Handstand Pose for Advanced
You could also try the Eka Pada Sirsasana once you have mastered this asana. Once you assume the pose, exhale and lower one leg such that it is parallel to the floor, while the other one is still perpendicular to the floor. The hips of the bent leg usually tend to sink. To correct this, turn that leg slightly outward such that your buttocks come closer and rotate only from the hip joint. Hold the position for a few seconds. Inhale, and bring the lowered leg back to position. Repeat by lowering the other leg.
- You can practise half-Headstand with one or both of the legs at 90 degrees parallel to the floor.
How to Safely Practice Headstand
Headstand can be a terrific asana for your mind and body. Practicing it has lots of benefits. However, you must exercise it with a lot of caution to avoid cervical spine injury. The risk of harm heightens when you practice headstand with poor techniques and alignment or over-repetition. You shouldn’t take the risks of practicing this asana lightly.
Skip the asana if you have any injury, especially on your neck, shoulder, and upper back. The risks of Headstand position injuries far outweigh its benefits if you have an existing medical problem or condition. If you have an inflammation, misalignment, or weakness, consult your physician before trying to enter this pose.
You can learn the Headstand position against a wall for increased safety as it avoids toppling out of the pose. However, you should resist the temptation of kicking up to it. Instead, bring your legs or knees into your chest first. If you kick up to the wall, you’ll get into a backbend. This way, you may collapse into the lower back, making it more difficult for the core to get back to the upright position. Additionally, you risk over-flexing or hyper-extending your neck, thereby bringing it out of neutral alignment. Exit the Headstand slowly, symmetrically, and with good control.