Turning upside-down can give you a new perspective on life and the courage to try something new. Those are just two of the many benefits of sirsasana, pronounced "sheer-SHA-sa-na," the yoga pose better known as a headstand.
In his book "Light on Yoga," renowned yoga teacher B.K.S. Iyengar calls sirsasana the "king of all asanas" because of its positive effects on your body, mind and spirit.
The inverted position of sirsasana increases the flow of blood to your brain. This freshly oxygenated blood stimulates your pituitary and pineal glands to calm and revitalize your mind; alleviate stress, insomnia and depression; regulate your metabolism; aid circulation; and improve memory and concentration, according to Iyengar.
Sirsasana also strengthens your lungs and helps relieve colds, cough, sinusitis, sore throat and asthma. This upside-down pose aids digestion, especially if you are suffering from constipation.
Not only does it both relax and energize your mind, Sirsasana strengthens your core as it works the muscles in your abdomen, back, neck, shoulders and arms. Sirsasana brings your attention to alignment and balance. By rooting firmly in your foundation, the crown of your head, you can lengthen your spine and ease pressure on your lower back. Engage your neck muscles to relax your jaw and vocal muscles.
As a heating pose, sirsasana prepares you for back bends.
Sirsasana deepens and calms your breathing because of the increased pressure on your diaphragm. A study in Krakow, Poland, concluded that even though a headstand can cause the breath to slow down, the blood absorbs more oxygen, which benefits your brain and inner organs as it nourishes cells and tissues.
Preparation and Recovery
Before you practice sirsasana, stand in tadasana, or mountain pose, to fine-tune your alignment. A headstand is basically the upside-down version of tadasana. Adho mukha svanasana, or downward-facing dog, opens and strengthens your shoulders, lengthens your spine and prepares your body for being upside-down.
If you're new to sirsasana, use the wall for support. The longer you hold the pose, the more you will experience its many benefits. Beginners can work their way up to five minutes. More experienced yogis can last for 30 minutes or longer.
After you come out of the pose, take child's pose with your two fists stacked between your forehead and the floor.
Check with your physician before practicing sirsasana if you have a back or neck injury, high or low blood pressure, a heart condition or glaucoma. If you are pregnant, practice sirsasana only if you are already comfortable with the pose. If you are new to sirsasana, ask your yoga teacher for help. If you are menstruating, let your teacher know so that he can guide you accordingly.