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Sirsasana or Salamba Sirsasana (Supported Headstand Pose)

Benefits, Contraindications, Tips and How to Do

Sirsasana
English Name(s)
Headstand Pose
Sanskrit
शीर्षासन / Śīrṣasana
Pronunciation
Shir-shah-ah-sah-nuh
Meaning
Śīrṣa : “head”
āsana: “pose”

Sirsasana at a Glance

Sirsasana is known as the “King of Asanas” and is referred to as Headstand in English. This total inversion helps to refresh the cardiovascular and lymphatic systems and energizes the whole body. This advanced, challenging pose is also known as the Salamba Sirsasana, which is included in the Ashtanga Advanced series and the Ashtanga Second series. This pose balances all seven chakras from your root to the crown.

Benefits:

  • The Sirsasana pose helps to build strength and confidence.
  • Practicing Sirsasana helps to improve the blood flow to your head and heart.
  • It helps to improve your concentration and focus.
  • It strengthens your arms, legs, and spinal muscles.
  • It helps to enhance your core strength and maintains your body posture.
  • This stimulates all the chakras in your body.

Who can do it?

It is an advanced and challenging asana and no doubt it should be done only by advanced yoga practitioners. Intermediate yoga practitioners who have been doing yoga for a long time can do this asana but under the guidance of yoga teachers. People in sports during advanced strength training can do it under the guidance. Individuals who have good core strength, balance, focus, and patience can do it under guidance and support.

Who should not do it?

Beginners should not do this pose. Women during their pregnancy should avoid doing this pose. Women during their menstrual cycle should avoid doing this pose. If you have any injury, to your back, shoulders, arms, neck or legs should avoid doing this pose. People with any prior or recent surgery should avoid doing this pose.

How to Do Sirsasana?
Follow the Step-by-Step Procedure

Even though you have good core strength and doing yoga for quite a long time, when it comes to Sirsasana (yoga headstand) you should be doing it under the guidance of an experienced yoga teacher. Prepare your body before you do the Sirsasana to avoid any injuries or practicing yoga of any kind.

  1. Before you start this yoga practice, see that you wear a proper comfortable dress and remove any ornaments that would disturb your process and focus.
  2. Place a yoga mat on the ground and people who are doing it for the first time can do it near the wall or any other support, just to gain confidence and to focus better.
  3. Come down on the mat in the Dandasana pose, keep your legs straight and your back straight, and take some deep breaths to relax your body and mind.
  4. Now to start with, come to the Vajrasana pose by folding your legs by bringing your feet under your buttocks. Let your knees be together sit on your heels keep your hands on your thighs and take a deep breath.
  5. As you are in the Vajrasana pose, bring both your arms and interlock your fingers bend forward (lean forward), and place the forearms (shoulder width apart) on the yoga mat.
  6. Keep your arms engaged and grounded and your interlocked fingers formed as a cup.
  7. Now to find out the proper placement of your head, you can just bring your hand and place the heel of the hand on the nose and reach your finger over your head. See where your middle finger reaches and that would be the part of the head that you should place on the mat in between the cupped hands.
  8. Note that your elbows should be below your shoulders when you place your hands on the mat.
  9. The above alignment should be proper to get a basic foundation for this pose.
  10. As you have placed the crown of the head in between the palms, slowly tuck your toes and lift your hips.
  11. Here you can come to the Dolphin pose or inhale and walk your feet toward the head.
  12. Walk your legs till your back is straight in line with your head or keep your knees bent and slowly bring your hips straight.
  13. Bring most of the weight to your arms and slowly lift the leg off the floor or lift your left foot and bring your left knee into your chest alongside your right. Once you feel steady, inhale and engage your core to lift your left leg (left foot) next to your right, get balance, and bring your both legs up straight in one line with your body.
  14. Your hips should be above your shoulder and ankle above your hip.
  15. Keep your elbow and your forearm grounded and stay focused.
  16. Lengthen your tailbone upward toward the heels and to the sky and keep the entire body in one vertical line.
  17. Keep breathing balance your body and hold the full headstand pose for a few breaths within your comfort level focus on the breath and head and keep your core active.
  18. While you release, follow the steps but in the reverse order.
  19. Slowly fold your legs and bring them back to the ground by placing your toes on the ground now to balance come to the child’s pose and be here for a few breaths.
  20. Then come back to the Vajrasana pose and lie down in the Shavasana pose and let your whole body be energized and gain the benefits of the Sirsasana pose.

What are the Benefits of Sirsasana?

Benefits Salamba Sirsasana
  • Sirsasana (inverted posture) is the king of all asanas and has immense benefits if done slowly and under the supervision of your yoga teacher.
  • The headstand Pose improves the body posture by engaging the core and strengthening the back muscles, arms, and shoulders.
  • This pose could be the best pose that helps to strengthen your core as lifting your lower body and balancing your legs depends on your core.
  • As you hold your body just with the support of your forearm, it helps to strengthen your, arms, legs, hips, and back.
  • It helps to focus and concentrate very deeply on yourself.
  • This pose helps to enhance and boost your mental fitness and give you more clarity mentally.
  • This pose helps you to coordinate with your mental and physical balance which is the primary requirement in our everyday life.
  • This pose increases the blood flow to your heart and your head which helps to energize your body and mind.
  • This can help with your inner peace and helps to relieve your stress and anxiety.
  • This pose can also prepare you for meditation by keeping your mind calm and focused.

Health Conditions that Might Benefit from Sirsasana

  • While practicing this pose, you give more oxygen and healthy blood to your eyes, which can be healthy for your eyes help with better eyesight and keep your eye problems away.
  • This helps to increase the muscular endurance of your upper body, mainly your shoulder and arms as it holds the entire body in this pose.
  • While practicing this pose, the gravity of force increases toward your digestive system, which helps with better absorption of nutrients keeping your constipation away and enhancing your digestion process.
  • This inversion pose helps the blood flow to your head region which can help for a healthy scalp and hair.
  • It may relieve stress by reducing the production of stress hormones.
  • It also helps your nervous and glandular system, especially regarding issues related to the reproductive system.
  • While you perform this pose, the blood flow to your head helps to reduce the production of the cortisol level (stress hormone) and increase the production of dopamine and serotonin which regulate your mood and relieve stress.
  • This pose can also help to avoid inflammation or swelling in your legs and this pose can get your build-up or toxins flushed out from your body and get you relieved with any discomfort in your legs.

Safety and Precautions

  • Avoid this pose if you have any neck, spine, or shoulder issues.
  • Avoid this pose when you have high blood pressure and glaucoma.
  • In the initial stages do it under the guidance of the yoga teacher.
  • Don’t practice it when you have your menstrual cycle.
  • Avoid doing this pose immediately after your meal.
  • Always do the counterpose- the Child’s pose or any other poses to balance and the resting pose.
  • Do the Warmup poses to prepare your body parts.

Common Mistakes

  • Missing your proper alignment principles can lead to injury.
  • If this is your starting stage of practicing this pose, practice it under the guidance of the yoga teacher.
  • If you miss engaging your core, you will lose your balance while practicing the Sirsasana pose.
  • People sometimes tend to hold their breath while doing yoga, holding their breath will interrupt your balance and stability.
  • Don’t avoid any pain or discomfort while doing this pose, just come out of the pose.

Tips for Sirsasana

  • Do the proper Preparatory poses like- downward facing dog pose, dolphin pose, and Plank pose.
  • Avoid doing the Headstand pose on your own, always take the help of your yoga teacher.
  • Never rush into the pose and be slow while getting out of the pose.
  • To find the right head placement on the floor, place the heel of your hand on the bridge of your nose and notice where your middle finger reaches the head.
  • Keep your core engaged throughout the pose.
  • Keep your elbows directly under the shoulders.
  • Your breath should be flowing throughout the pose.
  • Use your abdominal strength to lower your legs while pressing down through your forearms slowly.
  • Keep your legs active.
  • Progress gradually and reach the final version.

Physical Alignment Principles for Sirsasana

  • Place the center of the top of your head on the floor inside the interlocked fingers.
  • Press into your elbows and keep your shoulders engaged.
  • Forearms should be pressing against the ground.
  • Fingers interlocked.
  • Lengthen your neck and keep it relaxed.
  • Elbows should be shoulder distance apart.
  • Your hips should be aligned with the shoulders and ankles with the hips.
  • Tailbone lengthened and reaching upward.
  • Your core should be engaged.
  • Keep your shoulder blades away from the ears.
  • Keep your legs strong and internally rotated.
  • Your legs should be close to each other.
  • The pressure should be more on the arms than on the crown of your head.
  • Bring the chest closer inside and the upper back stretched deeper outside.
  • Muscles: triceps, biceps, core, gluteus, hip flexors, pelvic floor muscles Navel: pulled in and up to support lower back
  • Feet extending upward and toes pointing up.
  • The spine should be long and straight.
  • Keep the mal and the Udhiyana bandha to stabilize the mind and body.
  • Squeeze your ankles and inner thighs together.
  • The pelvis is aligned over the crown of the head.
  • Use your upper body strength and balance.

Sirsasana and Breath

Breath is an important part of this advanced and challenging pose to maintain stability and balance. Take deep breaths before you start the pose. Inhale deeply and come to the first step up. Inhale and walk your legs and as you exhale lift and straighten your legs up slowly engage your core and let your body be in one line from head to toe. Balance your body and keep breathing throughout the pose

When you release the Sirsasana pose, Inhale deeply bring your legs to the ground keep breathing and bring your arms down and feel the stretch. Your breath will release the stress and tension in your body and give you a feeling of calmness with your breath.

Sirsasana and Variations

  • Sirsasana (headstand) pose can be done with the support of the wall.
  • You can also take the support of your yoga teacher to do the Sirsasana pose.
  • Half Sirsasana pose – As you lift your hips straight and walk your legs till it’s straight and form a V shape of the body.
  • Nirlamba Sirsasana pose where your body weight is only on the crown of your head and not on your arms or legs.
  • Salamba Sirsasana 2 – Salamba Sirsasana 2 (Supported headstand 2), the legs are extended wide apart, giving the shape of a straddle.
  • Lotus pose Sirsasana variation -One can go deeper into the pose by bringing the legs in Lotus Pose (Padmasana), crossing them in Lotus pose.
  • Eagle pose in Sirsasana.
  • Shoulder stand pose.
  • Tripod Dolphin pose.
  • Tripod Sirsasana, placing one knee on the elbow.
  • Upward-facing staff pose.

The Bottom Line

Salamba Sirsasana is a challenging pose that gives importance to balance, focus, and stretch. This pose demands good flexibility, concentration, and core strength and can be achieved by consistent practice to reach the final version of the pose. People with any injuries or surgery should consult their doctor. Students doing this pose for the first time should do it under the guidance of their yoga teacher or take wall support.

Follow the physical alignment principles respect your body and progress gradually step by step and safely. Coordinate the movement with your breath, and experience the feeling of calm and peace in your body and mind. This will improve your patience, focus, balance, and overall well-being.

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Meera Watts
Meera Watts is the owner and founder of Siddhi Yoga International. She is known worldwide for her thought leadership in the wellness industry and was recognized as a Top 20 International Yoga Blogger. Her writing on holistic health has appeared in Elephant Journal, CureJoy, FunTimesGuide, OMtimes and other international magazines. She got the Top 100 Entrepreneur of Singapore award in 2022. Meera is a yoga teacher and therapist, though now she focuses primarily on leading Siddhi Yoga International, blogging and spending time with her family in Singapore.

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