Asana of the Month: Sirshasana - Headstand
November 05, 2012
Also called the queen of Yoga postures for the innumerable benefits it brings. In Sanskrit, Sirshasana (from Sirsha, head). In this posture the whole body is inverted. Due to the effect of gravity, the arch of the aorta and the carotids are flooded with arterial blood. The brain receives an enriched blood supply. Inverting the body also deepens the breath, giving the brain a greater supply of oxygen. Improves concentration and sense of balance. If we suffer from very high blood pressure or if we have retinal detachment problems, we should not practice headstand. Before starting the headstand, it is convenient to go through some simple preparatory exercises: -leg raises -dolphin Leg lift The leg lift strengthens the abdominal and lower back muscles and lengthens the hamstrings, the latter muscles which tend to shorten over time. The improvement of muscle tone in these areas allows greater ease in the subsequent execution of the asanas. During the practice of leg raises it is important to keep your back against the ground, your neck and shoulders relaxed, and your chin directed towards your chest. The leg that is raised should be straight, without bending at the knee. They are raised until the legs are placed at a 90-degree angle, although it is more important to lift them less and feel comfortable, paying attention not to detach the lower back or tense the cervical area. Single Leg Raise Practice: With the feet together and the legs stretched out, place the arms extended to the sides of the body, palms down. The chin remains directed towards the chest. Inhale in three seconds, while the right leg is raised. The foot is held with the toes facing the head. Keep both legs without bending; also exhale in three seconds while lowering the leg. Repeat with the left leg. Do this move 3-5 times, alternating legs. Practice raising both legs: Lying on your back, bring your legs together; Place your arms outstretched by your sides, palms down. You can also keep your hands under the buttocks to protect the lumbar vertebrae, if you have discomfort in this part of the back. Students with more practice time can place their arms behind their heads, hugging their elbows, to strengthen their abdominal muscles. With your back flat on the floor and your chin toward your chest, inhale for a count of three seconds and lift both legs up to 90 degrees. Exhaling count three seconds and lower your legs, keeping your attention on your back so that it remains well supported all the time against the ground. Repeat the exercise 6 to 10 times, coordinating the movement with your breath. The dolphin Before trying the headstand, it is advisable to practice the dolphin, which is not exactly an asana, to strengthen the muscles of the wrists, arms and shoulders. Sitting on heels with knees together. Measure the distance of the forearms by taking each elbow with the opposite hand. Rest your elbows on the ground in line with your shoulders. Without moving your elbows off the ground, place your hands together to form a tripod (triangle) on the ground; interlock your fingers. Keep your head up, straighten your knees. Reach forward (exhaling) and back (inhaling), bring your chin in front of your hands, then push your body back as far as you can. Perform this exercise 8 to 10 times, without too much fatigue but being aware of the effort made. Rest in the embryo position, described below, when you finish the dolphin, for one minute. INSTRUCTIONS TO EXECUTE THE STAND ON THE HEAD Generally practiced as the first of the twelve basic asanas, immediately after the sun salutation. It is one of the most powerful asanas for the body and mind. Mastering headstand requires a bit of strength, but not as much as it sounds. It is primarily a matter of conquering the fear of standing in an inverted posture, with your head on the ground and your feet in the sky. With the conviction that you can do it and following the steps that we propose, you will be able to execute it in a reasonable period of time. To begin with, we relax in the posture of the embryo, as we have already explained, sitting on the heels, with the forehead on the ground and the arms at the sides of the body, the palms of the hands turned up. SIRSHASANA CONSISTS OF EIGHT STEPS We mentally prepare for headstand by repeating the OM mantra mentally. We sit Step 1. We get down on our knees and place our forearms on the yoga mat, in front of the knees. We lean on our elbows in such a way that the tips of the fingers of each hand surround the opposite elbow. Step 2. Without moving the elbows from this position, we interlock the fingers of both hands and place them in front of us forming what would be the vertex of a triangle, based on the distance between both elbows, on the ground. Step 3. We place the upper part of the head on the ground or blanket, holding it from the back with both hands intertwined. The upper (parietal) region of the top of the head should rest on the blanket and not the region closest to the forehead. Step 4. We raise the hips and stretch the knees with the toes in contact with the ground. Step 5. We walk with our legs stretched out, bringing our feet closer to our heads as much as possible until our back is perpendicular to the ground. We push the hips back so that the neck does not tilt forward or backward, but forms a straight line with the spine. We keep our head and elbows firmly on the ground forming the triangle that will serve as the base for the posture. Step 6. This step 6 is called half posture and it is fundamental. Once you've managed to stay in this position for a few moments, you've already gained your balance to move forward easily. Step 7. We raise the knees, still bent, towards the ceiling, bringing the thighs to the vertical. Keeping your knees bent and together, slowly straighten your hips with your knees bent until they point toward the ceiling. Feel your hips like a hinge that is gently opening. Do not hurry. Keep your focus on your elbows and make sure they don't come off the ground. Step 8. We stretch our legs to complete the posture. The weight of the body rests on the forearms. We avoid putting pressure on the head, supporting the weight of the body on the elbows and intertwined hands. The intertwined elbows and fingers of both hands form the three points or tripod on which the body rests in balance. The weight on the head is so small that it is hardly felt. We concentrate on the breath by repeating the OM mantra three times. We feel the body straight and firmly anchored in the triangle of the arms. Feet touch, legs completely straight and relaxed. We close our eyes and concentrate on the point between the eyebrows, while we silence our mind for a minute. We are now in position for a minute. If we feel fatigued or the neck has tightened, we go down to the position of the embryo and stay there. If we want to continue, we maintain a relaxed and stable breath. After two minutes, time that we can increase with practice, we undo the posture slowly, step by step, lowering the knees to the chest and then the feet to the ground. We relax for a moment in the embryo pose for six deep breaths. We loosen the neck and shoulders well. We breathe deeply and feel how the blood returns to the feet. After the posture of the embryo we go to the position of savasana lying on the floor, with the legs and arms separated. We let the head roll to the right and to the left to relax the neck. As you inhale, raise your shoulders toward your ears and release as you exhale. We let the head roll gently to the right and to the left. We breathe deeply.