Living Longer, Living Stronger: The Yoga Headstand

Source: Article Snatch

In yoga, do only what seems feasible to you. Regularity and a proper approach are more important than feats of prowess. In fact the latter aren’t considered in the least desirable as part of yoga. As recently as the turn of the century occidental medical science shrugged off asanas as so much mysticism. However, many asanas, including the yoga headstand, is now seen to provide many benefits.

Sirshasana, or the headstand, is traditionally associated with yoga and second only to the Lotus or Buddha pose in identifying the entire subject of Hatha yoga in the Western mind. It is not nearly as difficult to do as people imagine, may be learned at any age and, once mastered, is wonderfully relaxing and all-inclusive. However, the student should proceed cautiously at first while learning it, since recklessness or impatience may cause injury.

Method: For best results the headstand should be practiced and learned in four stages, although once you have mastered the technique its execution will be surprisingly smooth and relaxing.

FIRST STAGE: Kneel on a mat, clasp your hands, fingers interlocked, and let both the hands and the forearms rest on the floor with elbows not too wide apart.

SECOND STAGE: Next place your head, about one inch above the forehead, within the triangle thus formed, but be sure it rests on the pad and not on the hands themselves. Cup your hands around your head so that the thumbs support it. Now slowly get up from your knees and stand on your toes. Next try to bring your toes closer in to your head, taking small steps, knees stiff. You have doubtless observed small children standing this way, bent practically in half, bottoms up.

Adults do not assume this pose naturally, but you should continue to try it. Even if you never get beyond this first stage of the headstand, you will derive benefits from it in limberness and improved circulation. However, here is a word of caution: this reverse position is not for persons with either very high or very low blood pressure, weak eye capillaries, chronic nasal catarrh or defective (not merely sluggish) pituitary or thyroid glands.

STAGE THREE: Until you are adept at the yoga headstand, it is wise to practice stage two either in a corner or against a wall, partly as insurance against falling and partly because of the sense of safety and balance you may need simply for reassurance. You may also need the help of another person at your first attempt. If you attempt to raise your legs without help, you may find it easier to raise them both at once, giving yourself a boost as if with a slight jumping motion, knees bent.

STAGE FOUR: Then slowly raise the legs and feet and straighten them, until your entire body is vertical. The wall or corner will prevent your falling over backward. Hold this position for five seconds, then slowly lower the legs, bending the knees for balance, and finally let your feet rest on the floor once more. Get up. Lie down and relax.

Eventually you will hold the position for five minutes or more, once a day. Yogis, of course, retain this pose for thirty minutes, a whole period of meditation.

Therapeutic Value: This asana supplies blood to the brain, clearing the mind and helping concentration and toning the nervous system. It is recommended for developing brainpower in the young and maintaining mental health throughout life. By reversing gravity, it relieves the inevitable heart strain which accompanies normal living, thus prolonging life. The increased blood supply to the brain also improves weak eyesight, faulty hearing, sharpens all senses, cures many neurotic symptoms, improves the sense of balance and banishes insomnia.

It is of great value in keeping the endocrine glands healthy, reducing all tension, fatigue and poor circulation. It is also good for the memory. In short, it is known as the “King of the Asanas,” and is said to bring eternal youth. Again, however, the caution given for stage one must be repeated: it must not be done by persons with abnormally high or low blood pressure or any of the disorders mentioned at stage one — at least, not until they have been cured by other, simpler asanis.

Good luck in learning to perform the yoga headstand!

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