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Sirsanana

One of Yoga's most challenging poses

sirsasana

You are looking to achieve the pose similar to this example which as far as head stands go,  it's a good demonstration, but the head needs to be forwards to reduce the neck arch

The yoga asana referred to as headstand is challenging and sometimes dangerous depending on the person's level of strength and fitness.

To practice this, one must first be competent at holding a handstand for 30 seconds or more because when one is performing a headstand, the weight of the body is taken on the arms to avoid damaging one's neck which happens far too often.

We are so often very competitive and that competitiveness often pushes people to do things that they are not capable of and in this case, neck injuries can be an unpleasant consequence.

Did I tell you this was dangerous? Before you even attempt this posture, you really should have practised a range of other yoga asanas for six months or more and have a basic understanding of your body.

When doing sirsasana you are in effect turning your world upside down. Physiologically the soft tissues of the body experience a reversal of gravity which allows the circulation and energy flow in the body a brief change which has some health benefits.

On a metaphysical level, it could help shift perception and assist in perceiving reality from a different perspective which is crucial to yoga practice. We must remember that yoga is all about refining and expanding perception, and the headstand is a valuable tool but it is not essential.

All yoga asanas as they are classically presented are designed for people who are in optimal good health and superbly fit. In the modern world of 2017, the majority of the worlds population is chronically ill stop we are suffering an acute level of poisoning from sugar and agricultural chemicals not to mention the plastic's and other environmental toxins.

At a structural level, our posture leaves a lot to be desired and there are a majority who usually are knowingly suffer from excessive curvature of the spine. In suffering from these conditions, any attempt at headstand can only increase the mental and physical weaknesses of the body.

Therefore headstand should only be practised by people who have taken some responsibility and have moved to improve their posture because the headstand itself as the inversion of tadasana requires an extension or lengthening of the entire spine.

Details - Structure

Typically this pose is taught with the back of the head nestled into the open hands with fingers interlocked as represented above and in the right diagram.

From there a typical direction would be to take the entire weight of one's body upon the top of one's head. Here one must consider that many people are going to be unstable and wobble about.

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This head position is wrong

So now think about the neck! The lumbar spine that carries the weight of the torso is approximately 3 inches or more in diameter. This is because it is designed to carry the weight of the upper body. When we consider the neck, the vertebrae of the neck can be less than 1 inch in diameter and only designed to support the weight of one's head.

So if you are to balance the entire weight of your body on the crown of your head, that is going to put unbelievable stress on the neck. Now we also have the question of alignment. Ideally the crown of the head is resting on the floor and in adults, the crown of the head is the point of the fontanelle in babies.

In young adults this can be soft but then the bones are malleable. Now you might have witnessed children playing at handstands and wobbling around all over the place, you must realise that their bones are still soft and they should not be encouraged to do head stands for any length of time unless they are exceedingly regular in which case their body will adapt.

Now if an adult attempts to do a headstand allowing most of their way to rest on the crown of the head and the neck and the spine is not properly aligned, there is a very real risk of fracturing the vertebrae of the neck, compressing the intervertebral discs causing damage to them as well as causing long-term nerve damage.

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When doing headstand, the interlocked fingers and elbows should form an equilateral triangle with the head in the centre

Therefore I advocate that anyone attempting headstand must do so under supervision and as per these details, they need to create a triangular foundation with the forearms so they can use the arms and shoulders to hold the head completely off the floor and allow the neck to hang down from the shoulders while working into the pose.

Then over time with someone checking to make sure that they are straight, they can begin to practice taking an increasing amount of weight on the crown of the head and learning to extend the neck training body to adjust to this new perspective.

This means that the head and the elbows form the three points of a triangle with the head placed in the middle as per right image.

Here the idea is to be able to take one's entire body weight into the arms and shoulders so you can regulate how much weight is taken on the head.

In this variation, the hands are clasped together (with the heels of the hands together) so that the triangle is formed by the elbows and forearms.  The little fingers are either extended or curled inside one another so that the entire edge of the hands and little fingers are in contact with the floor.

Good luck and don't break your neck!

Another description for those reasonably strong and flexible.

Another Option:

A less challenging variation is to perform the pose similarly to the cover image where by you make a triangle with your hands on the crown of your head on the floor so that you can use the strength of your arms to push up. In this variation you can also do it with your back against the wall and keep as much weight on your arms as comfortable and less weight on your neck.

I should add that most people require cushioning afforded by a couple of neatly folded blankets under their head and that practising on any uneven surface increases the chances of self injury.

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