Headstand

4 Dec

young yoga female doing yogatic exericise

Intention

Is to create the king of asanas a light upward inverted pose like a steady candle flame that is apparently supported by the head the wick but which is in reality supported by the fore arms while merely balancing on the head

Benefits

  • Promotes confidence
  • Calms the mind
  • Increases circulation of blood to the brain
  • Believed to stimulate the Pineal and Pituitary glands which influence growth, vitality and health
  • Considered beneficial for memory, concentration and focus
  • Reduces insomnia
  • Warming for the body
  • Reverses the flow of Apana Vayu
  • Believed to reduce constipation
  • Considered beneficial for circulation and elimination in the body
  • Improves respiration
  • Beneficial for varicose veins
  • Reduces excess fluid and swelling in the feet and legs

Contraindications

  • Injuries, inflammation or arthritis of the cervical spine or neck
  • Unable to practice Sarvangasana
  • Heart disease
  • History of stroke
  • High blood pressure
  • Glaucoma or detached retina
  • Hiatus hernia
  • Menstruation
  • Pregnancy

Teaching technique

  1. Fold the mat in half to increase the padding for the head and add a blanket if needed for your comfort
  2. Kneel on the mat, separate the thumb and forefinger into the tigers jaw and place them against the inside of the opposite elbow which establishes the elbow width for each individual
  3. Interlock the fingers tucking the bottom little finger inside the other little finger so that the outer edges of the hands will rest symmetrically on the mat
  4. This forms the triangle of hands and forearms which will support the weight of the body in Salamba Sirsasana
  5. Lightly place the crown of the head onto the floor between the wrists so that the hands can be wrapped around the head and activate Jalandharabandha to protect the neck
  6. Straighten the legs and lift the pelvis towards the ceiling while walking the feet towards the head until the torso is in a vertical position
  7. Exhale activate Mulabandha to support and stabilize the connection of the pelvis to the legs and the lumbar spine and activate and wrap the lower rectus, obliques and transverse abdominal muscles around the inner Mulabandha core to create greater strength and stability as the legs are lifted upwards towards the ceiling
  8. Pretend that there is a wall behind you and bend the knees and draw them to your chest, straighten the spine until the buttocks rest against the wall with the torso in a vertical position then pivot in the hips and take the legs back to wards the wall until the feet are line with the spine pressing into the wall
  9. Inhale push through the inner heels to straighten the legs and extend them heels along the wall towards the ceiling until Salamba Sirsasana is completed and the entire body is in a vertical position above the head
  10. Activate Uddiyanabandha and then activate the outer muscles of the ribcage, intercostals, serratus anterior, pectoralis, rhomboids major and minor latissimus dorsi, trapezius to wrap around the inner core of Uddiyanabandha to create an extremely strong ribcage that will be a stable foundation for the inverted torso, pelvis and legs
  11. Push the wrist end of the forearms into the floor as if trying to straighten the arms to lift the weight of the body off the head and support it in the arms as the triceps contract strongly and the crown of the head is only used for balance
  12. Hold Salamba Sirsasana for as long as you can support the weight of the inverted body in the arms using the head only for balance and imagine that you are standing in Tadasana with a neutral spine and internally supported by Maha Bandha
  13. Release this asana by bending the knees sliding the heels of the feet down the imaginary wall until they rest on top of the buttocks, then roll the knees to the chest, straighten the legs and extend the toes of the feet to the floor
  14. The movement of the body as it creates this pose is as graceful and light as a flower opening its petals to the morning sunshine

Modifications

  • Preparation headstands with the foundation of forearms and head on the floor walking the feet towards the head until the torso is in a vertical position
  • Preparation headstand with the foundation of the forearms and head on the floor, torso vertical, knees bent with the heels resting on the buttocks
  • Practice Salamba Sirsasana close to a wall so the heels can be dropped back onto the wall for balance and support
  • For a stronger practice the torso is taken slightly to the rear past the vertical position and the extended straight legs are raised by pivoting the head of the femur in the hip socket until the legs are upright, then the torso and legs are vertically aligned
  • Begin in Adho Mukha Svanasana (down dog) with the toes of the feet on the floor and the heels up the wall then step the feet up the wall until the legs are at a right angle to the torso and the wall, hold and practice lifting the head away from the floor
  • Use two chairs placed sideways against the wall to support the shoulders so the inverted body weight pushes downward stretching the levator scapula, trapezius and sternocleidomastoid muscles releasing tension and lengthening the neck
  • There are many leg variations in Salamba Sirsasana, the legs can be spread wide in the splits in both directions, Upavistha Konasana, Baddha Konasana, twisting to the sides and Padmasana with one foot resting on the floor with the other leg extended to the ceiling

Common misalignments

  • Jalandharabandha is released and the head rolls towards the forehead and does not rest on the flatter crown of the head which exaggerates the cervical curve of the spine which can be damaged if the weight of the body is allowed to rest on it
  • The arms soften, do not support the weight of the inverted body, does not create lift in the spine towards the ceiling through the shoulders and the thoracic spine sags downward Uddiyanabandha is released, the ribcage is not supported or stabilized internally, the floating ribs collapse towards each other, the thoracic spine bends at T11 & 12
  • Mulabandha is released, the pelvis is not supported or stabilized internally creating tension at the pelvic lumbar connection of S1L5
  • The pelvis is allowed to tilt into PPT or ATP exaggerating or reducing the lumbar curve so that it loses its neutral spine position
  • The legs are not active pushing up through the inner heels so the legs soften, the knees bend, the legs rotate so the legs are not symmetrical
  • The feet are not symmetrical or the outer blades of the feet are extended and the inner ankles do not meet
  • The inverted body is not vertical or loses its lateral vertical line from ear, shoulder, hip, knee to ankle bones
  • Practitioners initially hop or jump to create momentum to help counter the leverage and load of legs that need to be raised

Counter pose

Balasana where the body rests to release any tension created by Salamba Sirsasana and the spine and torso are gently stretched using deep abdominal vertical breath to create internal hydraulic pressure to stretch and open the torso from the inside out and release internal tensions.

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