Supported Headstand (Sirsasana)
Supported Headstand (Sirsasana): Step-by-Step Instructions
Often referred to as the "king of all yoga poses," the Headstand is also known as Sirsasana in Sanskrit. Practicing this posture helps you establish perfect mental balance and physical poise.
(Pronounced as "SAH-luhm-buh SHEER-SHAS-anna")
The Sanskrit word salamba means "supported," and sirsa means "head."
How to do Supported Headstand
Fold a yoga blanket four times. Place it onto your yoga mat so that the blanket cannot slide. Now measure the proper distance you need to be away from your wall support by sitting down on the ground, facing the wall and extending your legs straight so that the soles of your feet press against the wall.
Place one hand down on the floor right next to your knee. Keep your hand there as you get up into vajrasana (thunderbolt pose) and move your blanket on the yoga mat so that the center of the blanket is beside the measurement of where you've kept your hand on the floor.
Interlock your fingers together and place your forearms and the outsides of your hands down on the middle of the folded blanket. Kneel down and adjust your elbows so that they are below your shoulders. Lock your fingers completely together so that there are no gaps between the webbing of your fingers, forming a cup shape with your hands.
Push your forearms and wrists down hard into the floor to create lift in your shoulders, lengthening your back away from your head. Keeping your shoulders lifted up from the ground, slowly place the crown of your head on the blanket with your cupped hands touching the back of your head. Move your knees toward your head if necessary to achieve this correct head position.
Press your forearms and wrists into the blanket as you lift your knees up off the floor. Press the balls of your feet into the floor and walk your feet as close to your head as you can. Lift your buttocks up toward the ceiling and stretch your back up as you walk your feet in a little.
On an exhalation, lift both of your feet off the floor at the same time and bend your knees. This movement is easier if you make a slight hop, swinging your feet up together. Shift your weight onto your forearms as you lengthen your back up. Try to first lift up your thighs so that they are parallel to the floor. Then continue lifting your legs until your knees point straight up at the ceiling with your feet hanging down behind you near your buttocks.
Pause here to make sure your hips are not leaning slightly forward or backward. Then after finding your balance on your forearms and your head, gradually lift the feet straight up above you and push your heels up toward the sky.
If you feel unsteady, then bend one leg down behind you and touch that foot against the wall for support to help you align your knees and hips directly over your shoulders once more.
Bend your knees and come back down from the pose immediately if your arms feel weak and start shaking. That means you need to spend more time in Dolphin Pose as described below in the "Beginner's Tips" section before practicing this posture again.
Hold the posture for as long as you can. In the beginning, remaining in the pose for 30 seconds can be challenging enough. Rotate your thighs inward toward each other and tuck in both your tailbone and your shoulder blades as you remain in the pose.
To come out, exhale as you lower the legs simultaneously. You can gradually hold the pose a few seconds longer each time you practice it in the future.
Contraindications and Cautions:
Back or neck injuries less than 3 months old
Headaches from excessive neck and shoulder strain
Heart conditions or elevated blood pressure
For low blood pressure: Don't begin your yoga practice with this pose.
Pregnancy: Generally, if you have practiced Headstand for some time before you became pregnant, then you can continue practicing Headstand through your first trimester. However, if you have a history of miscarriages or want to learn Headstand after you become pregnant, then seek the guidance of an experienced yoga teacher.
Important: To avoid potential injuries, it is important that you have an experienced yoga teacher supervising you the first time you practice Headstand. It is best for students to become comfortable in Shoulder Stand Pose before practicing the Headstand.
Modifications and Props:
When you begin practicing Headstand, it is common to feel disoriented. To get a feeling for the proper alignment in the posture safely, practice Headstand with your interlocked hands against a corner of a wall.
Then when you come up in the pose, the right wall will help support your right side while the left wall will help support the left side, centering your body over your head. Thus, the corner prevents you from wobbling.
Deepen the Pose:
You can achieve better stability by locking your fingers very tightly together and keeping your inner wrists parallel to each other. The insides of your wrists should remain perpendicular to the floor.
To help you feel this correct positioning, straighten your pinky fingers and press them together while you continue interlocking the rest of your fingers tightly. Then as you come up into Headstand, feel the outside of your pinky fingers, the sides of your hands and the sides of your wrists especially pressing hard into the yoga mat to give you more stability and hold you straight up in the posture.
Builds strength in the spine and core muscles.
Relaxes the nervous system to reduce insomnia.
Helps prevent anxiety attacks and heart arrhythmias.
Improves the functioning of the respiratory system.
Promotes the health of the pituitary and pineal glands.
Increases the oxygen content of the blood.
Helps to relieve colds and diseases in the lymphatic system.
Promotes intestinal health.
When performed in the morning, it boosts your energy levels.
Tones the arms.
The simplest Headstand variation to try once you are comfortable in the pose is Parsva Sirsasana, or Revolved Headstand Pose that you pronounce as "PARSH-vuh SHEER-SHAS-anna."
As you continue stretching your legs up together toward the ceiling, contract your abdominal muscles and slowly rotate only your pelvis and your legs slightly to the right side.
Visualize someone twisting your body as if wringing out a towel as you make these movements. Do not disturb your torso as you move. Then slowly rotate your legs back to the middle and practice rotating them to the left as well.
Once Parsva Sirsasana becomes easy for you, then you can also try lowering one leg down toward the floor in Eka Pada Sirsasana -- pronounced as "ACHE-ah PAH-dah" -- which is the one-legged variation of the pose.
After you engage the thigh muscles of your left leg and anchor it above you, then slowly exhale as you bring your right leg down parallel to the ground with your foot behind your head. Move your right leg so slowly that it doesn't affect the position of your left leg. Keep your hips straight and aligned with each other.
Once you develop greater flexibility, then you will be able to bring your right foot down so that the toes can touch the floor behind your head. Stay here for 30 seconds or so, then inhale as you lift the leg back up. Repeat this posture on the other side for the same amount of time.
Ask a partner to walk around you and check your alignment. They should view your profile first to check that the crown of your head lines up with the middle of your shoulders, the middle of your hip bone, the middle of your knees and the middle of your ankles.
They should be able to draw an imaginary straight line through these points. Let them tap you to help point out where you need to adjust. Then they should look at you from the front and make sure your neck is straight without your shoulders sagging down or your head tilting to one side.