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Shirshasana (headstand pose)

 


Shirsha - Head


When performing this asana, the body is inverted, with the top of the head on the ground and the legs up in the air, and hence the name.

Taking the asana position

 

Initial Position - Padmasana

 

1. From standing position, come into a squat, on the toes.
2. Rest the knees on the ground and interlace the fingers of both hands together, placing the hands and forearms to the ground in front. The elbows should be one forearm's length apart, about 30cm. Bend forward and place the fontanelle (top of the head) on the ground, resting the back of the head between both palms.
3. Straighten both knees.
4. Slowly, walk the toes towards the head. The back, neck and head should form a straight line, perpendicular to the ground.
5. Slowly bend the knees, lifting the legs off the ground towards the chest, while keeping balance on the forearms and head.
6. Straighten the back and slowly point the knees towards the ceiling.
7. Straighten the legs and point the toes up, breathing normally.

 


The asana position

 

The whole body should be straight and perpendicular to the ground, with the toes pointing up. The weight of the entire body is balanced between the forearms and the head. Eyes can be closed to achieve stability of the mind which helps in balancing. Otherwise, the sight can be fixed on one point on the ground to help maintain balance. The breathing should be smooth and through the nose.


Releasing the asana position

 

1. Bend the knees slowly, touching the buttocks with the heels.
2. Bend at the waist and bring the knees close to the chest.
3. Straighten the legs and touch the toes to the ground gently.
4. Bend the knees and lower the hips down slowly to Vajrasana Yogamudra, with the forehead resting on the ground for 15 to 30 seconds.
5. Lift the head and sit in Vajrasana with closed eyes for a minute. Fold the fingers and gently press the heel of the palms on the closed eyes.
6. Release the palms and come back into a squat, on the toes.
7. Stand up slowly.

 


Anatomical focus

 

 

Awareness

 

On maintaining balance.

Do's

 

1. Keep the legs straight and toes pointed up.
2. Focus on the breathing in order to calm and quiet the mind.

Dont's

 

1. Jump or fling the legs up to come into the asana.

 

Benefits

 

1. Improved blood circulation to the brain and eyes, increasing their efficiency.
2. Helps to bring the impure blood from the lower region of the body to the heart, relieving strain from the heart.
3. Helps to reverse the effects of gravity on the spine which helps to relieve the pressure on the vertebrae and also helps in the re-alignment of the vertebral column, correcting any minor postural defects.
4. Puts pressure on the pituitary gland which helps to increase its efficiency, and in turn the efficiency of all other hormone-producing endocrine glands which are controlled by it.
5. The weight of the abdominal organs on the diaphragm encourages deeper exhalation so that more carbon dioxide and other toxins are removed from the lungs.
6. Relieves anxiety.

Therapeutic application

 

1. Many forms of nervous and glandular disorder, especially those related to the reproductive system.
2. Varicose veins.
3. Anxiety.
4. Anger management.
5. Recommended for the prevention of asthma, hay fever, diabetes, menopausal imbalance, headaches and migraine.

Precautions & contra-indications

 

1. Heart disease
2. High or low blood pressure
3. Thrombosis
4. Arteriosclerosis
5. Chronic catarrh
6. Chronic constipation
7. Brain diseases
8. Weak blood vessels in the eyes
9. Asthma
10. Excess weight
11. Chronic or acute neck pain
12. Stiff neck
13. Osteoporosis
14. Kidney problems
15. Conjunctivitis
16. Chronic glaucoma
17. Inflammation of the ears
18. Blood hemorrhage in the head
19. Pregnancy and menstruation
20. During a headache or migraine
21. Prior aerobic exercise
22. Beginners may use the support of a wall to guard against losing balance and tumbling down.

Duration

 

A daily practice of between 1 to 3 minutes. This asana can be held for up to 30 minutes.

 

Variations & tips

 

If there is difficulty in balancing, then only perform the asana up to step 5 and try to balance in that position. Once balance is achieved after consistent practice, the legs can be straightened with relative ease.

Alternatively, in step 4, you may wish to walk the feet forward as much as you can, and then simply lift one leg into the air at a time.

 


Preparatory poses

 

1. Dolphin pose is an excellent all-rounder pose to strengthen the arms, shoulders, abdomen and back, as well as to improve flexibility in the hips.
2. Other inverted poses such as Ugrasana (ferocious pose), Sarwangasana (shoulder stand pose) can be practiced to gain confidence and get used to the feeling of being inverted.
3. To strengthen the arms :
 
Merudandasana
4. To strengthen the back :
 
Backbends such as chakrasana, noukasana (prone), niralambha shalabhasana, niralambha bhujangasana.
5. To strengthen the abdomen :
 
Noukasana (supine)
6. To improve hip flexibility which makes it easier to walk the toes toward the head and lift the toes off the ground :
 
Forward bends such as paschimottansana, uttanpadasana, pawanmuktasana.
Spinal twists such as vakrasana, ardha matsyendrasana.

Follow-up poses

 

1. Extensive practice of the headstand should always be followed by the shoulder stand and related postures (fish pose). Otherwise, there will be an imbalance which manifests as edginess and irritability.
2. Shavasana if necessary

Ancient texts

 

The third chapter in the Hathapradeepika describes various mudras. The description given as Viparita Karni Mudra is best suited to Shirshana.

Urdhwanabhirdhastalururdhwavam bhanuradhah shashi l
Karani viparitarakhya guruvakyen labhyate ll H P 3.78


Meaning -
When the navel is upward and the fontanelle is downward, ie. The sun is pointing up and the moon down, this pose of the body is known as Viparita Karani Mudra. This can be learnt by proper guidance from the guru.

Nitamyambhyasyuktasya jatharagnivivardhini l
Aaharo bahulstasya sampadyah sadhakasya cha ll
Alpaharoyadi bhavedgnirdahati tatkshanat ll H P 3.79


Meaning -
If this mudra is studied regularly, the fire (agni) in the stomach is precipitated. Hence, a sadhaka should have a proper diet. Any reduction in diet will result in the consumption of the body by this fire.

Adhah shirascordhwapadah kshanam syat prathame dine l
Kshanaccha kinchidadhikambhyaseccha dine ll H P 3.80


Meaning -
While studying this, efforts to stand on the head on the very first day should last for only a few seconds. Every day the duration should be gradually increased by a few seconds.

All these points are given in detail in the third chapter of Gherand Samhita.

Nabhimoole vasetsuryastalumule tu chandramah l
Amrutam grasate suyrastato mrutuvasho narah ll G S 3.29


Meaning -
The sun resides at the navel and the moon at the fontanelle. The fluid from the moon is swallowed by the sun, which leads to death in the end.

Urdhwan cha yojayetsurya chandram chapyadha aanayet l
Viparitkari mudra sarvatantreshu gopita ll G S 3.30


Meaning -
When the position of moon is made downward with sun facing upward, the mudra is called Viparit Karni Mudra. This is a secret Mudra.

The next shloka describes Shirshasan.

Bhoomou shirastha sansthapyam karayugmam samahitah
Urdhwapadhsthirou bhootwa viparitkari mata ll G S 3.31


Meaning -
Both the hands should be joined and kept on the ground. The head should be placed there and the legs lifted, making the body stable and balanced. This is known as Viparit karni Mudra.

The next shloka says that when the mudra is kept firm, both aging and death can be conquered.