Head Stand

Head Stand

Headstand is often called the king of yoga asanas because of its manybenefits. It is a heating pose suitable for intermediate to advanced students and should not be attempted for the first time without supervision of an experienced teacher. Sanskrit name: Salamba Sirsasana(pronounced: sah-LOM-bah shear-SHAHS-anna), salamba = with support (sa= with, alamba = support), sirsa = head.

Benefits
* Calms the brain and helps relieve stress and mild depression
* Stimulates the pituitary and pineal glands
* Strengthens the arms, legs, and spine
* Strengthens the lungs
* Tones the abdominal organs
* Improves digestion
* Helps relieve the symptoms of menopause
* Therapeutic for asthma, infertility, insomnia, and sinusitis

Contraindications and cautions
* Back injury
* Headache
* Heart condition
* High blood pressure
* Menstruation
* Neck injury
* Low blood pressure: don’t start practice with this pose
*Pregnancy: if you are experienced with this pose, you can continue topractice it late into pregnancy. However, don’t take up the practice ofSirsasana after you become pregnant.

Step by step

1. Use a folded blanket or sticky mat to pad your head and forearms. Kneelon the floor. Lace your fingers together and set the forearms on the floor, elbows at shoulder width. Roll the upper arms slightly outward, but press the inner wrists firmly into the floor. Set the crown of yourhead on the floor. If you are just beginning to practice this pose, press the bases of your palms together and snuggle the back of yourhead against the clasped hands. More experienced students can open their hands and place the back of the head into the open palms.

2. Inhale and lift your knees off the floor. Carefully walk your feetcloser to your elbows, heels elevated. Actively lift through the topthighs, forming an inverted V. Firm the shoulder blades against your back and lift them toward the tailbone so the front torso stays as long as possible. This should help prevent the weight of the shoulderscollapsing onto your neck and head.

3. Exhale and lift your feet away from the floor. Take both feet up at the same time, even if itmeans bending your knees and hopping lightly off the floor. As the legs (or thighs, if your knees are bent) rise to perpendicular to the floor, firm the tailbone against the back of the pelvis. Turn the upper thighs in slightly, and actively press the heels toward the ceiling (straightening the knees if you bent them to come up). The center of the arches should align over the center of the pelvis, which in turnshould align over the crown of the head.

4. Firm the outer armsinward, and soften the fingers. Continue to press the shoulder bladesagainst the back, widen them, and draw them toward the tailbone. Keepthe weight evenly balanced on the two forearms. It’s also essentialthat your tailbone continues to lift upward toward the heels. Once thebacks of the legs are fully lengthened through the heels, maintain that length and press up through the balls of the big toes so the inner legsare slightly longer than the outer.

5. As a beginning practitioner stay for 10 seconds. Gradually add 5 to 10 seconds onto your stay every day or so until you can comfortably hold the pose for 3 minutes. Then continue for 3 minutes each day for a week or two, until you feel relatively comfortable in the pose. Again gradually add 5 to 10 seconds onto your stay every day or so until you can comfortablyhold the pose for 5 minutes. Come down with an exhalation, withoutlosing the lift of the shoulder blades, with both feet touching thefloor at the same time.

Modifications and props

Balancein this pose is difficult at first. Perform Sirsasana against a wall.Bring the knuckles of the clasped hands to the wall. If possible, dothe pose in the corner of a room, so that the right-angled walls touchyour shoulders, hips, and outer heels.
Some schools of yoga recommend doing Sirsasana before Sarvangasana, others vice versa.

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Bassam Younes
Meditation

Bassam Younes is a certified holistic counselor, transformational coach, and speaker. He has been teaching meditation for seven years.

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