Friday, October 2, 2009

Head Stand (Shirshasana)

During the last two Ashtanga classes at Beyoga, I have been able to go into Headstand without putting my legs on the wall. But only managed to stay in the pose for about 3 to 4 breaths and have to come down when I felt my legs start to wobble. Still need to overcome the fear of falling and learn to relax and concentrate on my breathing.

The Headstand is known as the “King of Asanas” as there are many benefits to be obtained from this pose.

• The Headstand increases circulation to the brain, which causes improved brain function (intelligence and memory) and increased vitality and confidence.
• It improves many ailments, such as nervousness, tension, fatigue, sleeplessness, dullness, fear, poor blood circulation, bad memory, asthma, headaches, constipation, congested throat, liver or spleen, for female disorders, the initial stages of eye and nose troubles, and general lack of energy, vitality or self confidence.
• It stimulates four of the most important endocrine glands - the pituitary, the pineal, the thyroid, and the parathyroid glands that are responsible for our very existence, for they keep the body mechanism in good working order. Pituitary gland is called the master gland of the body. As a consequence, the practice of the headstand helps us to get relief from many of our troubles, physical as well as mental, or to prevent them. It has a very beneficial effect on the whole body.
• It promotes hair growth by increasing circulation to the scalp.
• It helps to put the spine into correct alignment.
• It restores the position of vital organs by reversing gravity.
• The quality of sleep is improved. Poor sleep is often due to an excess of nerve impulses from the reticular formation to the cerebral cortex in the brain. The headstand causes an increase in circulation to the neck, which stimulates the baroreceptors in the neck. This calms the reticular formation down, causing reduced nerve impulses to the cerebral cortex. This results in a peaceful, deep steep.

Doing the Headstand

• Kneel down on your yoga mat. Measure the distance between your elbows (fingertips to opposite elbow) placed on the floor in front of your knees.
• Clasp the hands in front, interlacing the fingers and place them and your forearms on the yoga mat. Keep the elbows fairly close together.
• Place your head on the floor, cupping the back of the head with the hands, thumbs extended up along the the back of the neck. It's important here to have placement on the very crown of the head and NOT the forehead.
• Rise up off your knees and take a step or two towards your head.
• Inhale, and slowly raise the legs until they are vertical. Push the elbows and shoulders directly into the floor, lifting the upper-body, creating a slight gap between the floor and the top of your head. Hold and breathe.
• To come down, bend your knees and lower one leg and then the other.
• Rest in child's pose.

At the beginner's stage, do the Half-Headstand.

Pull one knee into the chest. Inhale as you pull the second knee into the chest and hold. If you're unable to pull the second knee in his position, then practice alternating pulling in one knee and then the other, until the strength is there.

The majority of your weight here is on your arms. Focus keeping the elbows in place, driving them into the floor, lifting weight off your head. Keep your knees into the chest. Resist the temptation to raise them and stacking your weight into your neck. This will build strength and awareness.

Practice half-headstand for several weeks (or longer), along with leg-lifts and dolphin pushups.

Check out the video below on the safer approach to the Headstand that saves the spine and builds the core and arm strength.

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