Headstand – Shirshasana

Headstand is also known as the 'king of asanas' because this yoga pose is considered to be a master in curing many diseases. Headstand is one of the most effective asanas for body and mind. Mastering Shirshasana requires a bit of strength, but it is mainly a matter of concentration and awareness.

Headstand – Shirshasana

Category 

Inversion

Chakra  

Sahasrara/Crown Chakra

Meaning

In Sanskrit sirsa means head and asana means posture.

Benefits of Headstand

The yoga Headstand position is referred to as the ‘king of asanas’ due to its wonderful benefits to the body and the mind. Some of the benefits are:
  • Stimulating the functioning of the pineal, hypothalamus, and pituitary glands. This helps in better functioning and co-ordination of all the endocrine glands.
  • Improving the body’s ability to maintain homeostasis by stimulation of the nervous system
  • Providing conditioning to the brain, eyes, and ears due to safely increased blood pressure
  • Improving memory and concentration
  • Helping to manage mental fatigue, depression, and anxiety
  • Improving the functioning of the central nervous system
  • Improving the body’s capability to regulate blood pressure by stimulation of the so-called baroreceptors
  • Giving rest to the heart by reversing blood pressure temporarily
  •  Improving body posture by activating the core
  • Strengthening of muscles of the back, shoulders, and arms
  • Improving blood and lymph circulation throughout the entire body
  • Improving digestion and elimination functions.

Instructions for Headstand

  1. Sit on the knees and hold the elbows to measure the ideal distance.
  2. Then bring the arms to the ground right under the shoulders.
  3. Keeping the elbows there, bring the hands closer and interlock the fingers so that your arms form a triangle. Do not let your elbows open out.
  4. Place the head on the ground with the back of the head in the cupped hands.
  5. Curl your toes, straighten your knees, hips to the sky.
  6. Start walking towards your shoulders.
  7. Bring the right knee in your chest and then bring another knee towards the chest. This will make your spine straight.
  8. As you inhale, raise your legs to the sky.  Straighten your legs upward while keeping your feet slightly in front of you.
  9. Bring your focus on a steady point preferably at eye level.
  10. Take easy relaxed breaths and hold the posture as long as comfortable.

Alignment Cues

  • Ultimately the aim is to have your ears, shoulders, hips, and ankles in one straight line. This is ideal for long holds.
  • As you start to learn the pose, though, refer to the alignment described a little further down in Modifications.
  • Maintain the majority of your weight on the top of your head, while your arms share the weight and provide a supportive base.
  • Draw away your shoulder blades from your ears, toward your waist, keeping your neck elongated and stable.

Duration of Hold

  • Beginners: 30 seconds–1 minute
  • Intermediate: 1–3 minutes
  • Advanced: 3–6 minutes

Modifications

  • In the beginning phase, when learning Headstand, make sure to keep your feet slightly in front of your body.                                   
  •  Do not aim for shoulders-hip-ankles alignment, because that increases the risk of toppling over.
  • Until you can enter and exit the pose with control by yourself and hold for at least 1 minute, keep your feet slightly in front of you.
  • An easier and less intense pose, which still gives you the benefits of the inversion, is Half Headstand.

Cautions and Contra-indications

It is important to be very cautious when practising Headstand especially if you have any of the following health challenges:

  • Hypertension
  • Cardiovascular issues
  • Neck issues
  • Shoulder issues
  • Recent surgery or inflammation in your head region (for example ears, eyes, nose, etc.)
  • Arthritis or osteoporosis
  • Brain injuries
  • Lower-back and spinal issues (e.g. chronic pain, herniated disc, sciatica, SI-joint instability)
  • Acute migraine or headache
  • For asthma or other breathing disorders: holding only for short durations and skipping altogether if it causes too much discomfort, nausea, or shortness of breath
  • Practitioner younger than seven, because the skull is still a bit soft and it is safer not to place weight on it yet

Relevant Poses

Rest in Child's Pose and then move on to Shoulderstand - Sarvangasana.

For more yoga asanas and exercises, make sure to visit the Arhanta Yoga Asana Guide!