I am not one of those people who did headstands or handstands or tumbled and did cartwheels at every opportunity as a child. You are talking to a person here who during preteen and teen years avoided PE classes as much as possible bringing in a note every couple of weeks so that I would be allowed to skip the class.
In my yoga classes, I stayed away from headstand for a long time, refusing whenever my teacher asked me to try sirasasana. When I started Teacher Training I could not say no anymore. Eventually, I accepted my teacher’s offer to help me get into wall supported headstand. I folded my mat into half and set it against the wall. Then I knelt down, put my forearms on the ground and clasped my hands. When I put the crown of my head on the ground, fear started rising inside of me. I took a deep breath and then let out a long exhale. My anxiety over doing inversions is long-standing. I raised my hips into the air slowly resting them on the wall for support. Then I brought one leg up and my teacher held the knee so I could bring the other leg up. And just like that I was in a supported headstand. After he placed my heels against the wall, he stood back to check my alignment. At that point somebody called for his help and I was left upside down. All I remember was being taken over by panic and my feeble voice saying ‘over here please, I need help to get out of this pose.’ Soon afterward, but what seemed like an eternity to me, he helped me back down and asked me to stay in child’s pose for several moments. Disorientation was all I could feel for some time while practicing this asana, but it did eventually fade. Finally I was able to register other feelings in my body. I began to notice that all my weight felt like it was crashing down on my head and neck. When I mentioned it to my teacher, he suggested that I widen my shoulders, press my forearms into the mat and try to reach my legs and feet toward the ceiling. His recommendations helped me feel more at ease.
It was not until we came back to the states in April of 2014 that I started working on supported headstand by myself during a 21 day yoga challenge. We were in the midst of our move from India back to the US, family of 4 staying in a one bedroom hotel room while we were looking for a home. Even though this was a super stressful period of my life, I pushed myself to practice it daily so that I am able to get into it by myself.
Since that time, I have had an opportunity to work on sirasasana without wall support with other yogis and have come to realize that strong arms and strong core are a key to being able to perform this asana. I have made an effort to practice asanas like sampattasana, santolanasana and chaturanga dandasana so that one day I can have the physical stamina to get into sirsasana.
However, it is unlikely that headstand will ever be an easy pose for me, but I have come to value the experience. Since I started practicing it, I have realized that uncomfortable situations are inevitable. When they do occur, feelings of fear and aversion will arise. I don’t know if they will ever go away, but if I can find a way to experience more than just those feelings; I have the chance to learn more about my practice and myself.
On more details on how to perform sirasasana please watch our youtube video https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wpUkgsJNZ3U or visit our asana directory at http://total-yoga.org/asana-directory/
Slavica Gokul is a certified Vinyasa, Hatha and Power yoga teacher through Total Yoga in Bangalore, India. She has been an aspiring yogi for more than 20 years. She dedicated herself to consistent practice 9 years ago and while residing in India from 2012-14 underwent teacher training.