Very recently, for the first time in my ‘yoga life’, I practiced Sirsasana without the wall and with just a bit of support from my guru! I have had a bit of a mental block with even trying to practice the upside down asana, so I was elated! Apart from the initial euphoria of being able to do the asana I didn’t feel any different, until I sat down to meditate, a few moments later. Then, it was like suddenly parts of my brain opened up that hadn’t been used before.. Oh yes, there are many of those in my brain! After the first few moments of calm, I started analyzing some conflicting issues in my life that were clearly hidden in the back of my brain and something inside told me that I wasn’t handling them right. I was looking at those issues in the arrogant, ignorant, angry manner that is not me and certainly not the yogi me. I was so overwhelmed with that realization that I was crying through meditation! I realized that even though we think we have worked out or come to terms with issues dear to our heart, until we really look deep within ourselves, those issues may still exist.
Clearly for me, the practice of Sirsasana had sent blood rushing to my brain to get it working again! But Sirsasana has a lot of other benefits.
Sirsasana also known as the king of asanas, is a headstand. To get into a headstand, you need to identify the crown of the head by putting your palm on the forehead and taking your middle finger to the top most point on the head. Then sitting in Vajrasana interlock your palms and place them on the mat in front of you. Placing your head between the palms such that the crown is on the mat, lift your hips up with feet flat on the floor. Start walking in with your knees straight until your back is straight and your feet are as close to your head. Then slowly, without jerking, bend one knee and take the foot of the ground, then do the next, moving the weight on to your elbows. This posture is called acunchanasana and once this is mastered, then moving the legs up to straight is a goal not too hard to achieve!
The primary physical benefits of Sirsasana are that it brings fresh blood to the brain and rests the heart by stimulating venous return (rate of blood flow to the heart). By bringing fresh blood to the brain, it improves mental balance, concentration, enhances memory, sharpens the senses and relaxes the mind. It also has a cosmetic benefit of preventing premature graying or falling of hair! Since blood is flowing towards the brain, it also affects the Pituitary gland and thyroid glands which have an impact on hormones and metabolism.
Additional benefits are that it relieves pressure from the lower back, improves balance, cures spine problems, enhances blood circulation. Because you are challenging gravity and are upside down, it also helps overcome fear and improves physical balance. But in spite of all these benefits, Sirsasana must be practiced with caution because it is an advanced asana and needs the person to be reasonably fit with a reasonably strong core. There are also a few contraindications that need to be considered. Because the body is upside down, and blood is flowing in the opposite direction, people with high blood pressure must refrain from practicing it. Anyone with back and neck injuries must also avoid doing a Sirsasan because even though the arms are used there is always some impact on back and neck. Women who are pregnant or are in the first 3 days of their Menstrual cycle should not practice.
However, once mastered, Sirsasana can be done in the most graceful, ballet like manner, with stability and ease.. So c’mon folks, look at the world upside down…!