Salamba Sirsasana (Supported Headstand)

(sah-LOM-bah shear-SHAHS-anna)
salamba = with support sirsa = head

Type of Pose: Inversion

Benefits

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

Contraindications/Cautions

• Sirsasana is considered to be an intermediate to advanced pose. Do not perform this pose without sufficient prior experience or unless with the supervision of an experienced teacher.
• Back injury
• Headache
• Heart condition
• High blood pressure
• Menstruation
• Neck injury
• Low blood pressure: Don’t start practice with this pose
• Pregnancy: If experienced with this pose, one can continue to practice it late into pregnancy. Don’t take up the practice of Sirsasana after you become pregnant.

Step by Step

1. Use a folded blanket or sticky mat to pad your head and forearms. Kneel on the floor in Virasana. 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 your head on the floor, cupping the head with the hands.

2. Inhale, push up on the balls of the feet and lift the knees off the floor. Carefully walk your feet closer to your elbows, heels elevated, to bring the torso perpendicular to the floor. Actively lift through the top thighs. 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 shoulders collapsing onto your neck and head. The back torso forms a vertical line from the head to the back of the waist.

3. Exhale and lift your feet away from the floor, bringing the knees toward the chest, heels close to the buttocks. Take both feet up at the same time, lifting with control off the floor. Alternately bring one foot off the floor at a time.

4. Pressing the elbows to the floor, exhale and raise the thighs to perpendicular to the floor. Firm the tailbone against the back of the pelvis. Turn the upper thighs in slightly, straighten the knees and actively press the heels toward the ceiling. The center of the arches should align over the center of the pelvis, which in turn should align over the crown of the head – this should ensure that the spine is straight, with the body forming a vertical line.

5. Firm the outer arms inward, and soften the fingers. Continue to press the shoulder blades against the back, widen them, and draw them toward the tailbone. Keep the weight evenly balanced on the two forearms. It is essential that your tailbone continues to lift upward toward the heels. Once the backs of the legs are fully lengthened through the heels, maintain that length and press up through the balls of the big toes. The body is balanced on the crown of the head with support from the forearms and hands.

6. As a beginning practitioner stay for 10 seconds. Gradually add 5 to 10 seconds every day until you can comfortably hold the pose for 3 minutes. Continue for 3 minutes each day for a week or two, until you feel relatively comfortable in the pose. Gradually add 5 to 10 seconds until you can comfortably hold the pose for 5 minutes.

7. Come down with an exhalation, without losing the lift of the shoulder blades, with both feet touching the floor at the same time. Come into Child’s Pose. Stack the fists on top of each other and rest the forehead on the top fist. Rotate the head slowly from side to side to release the neck.

Beginner’s Tip:
• Balance in this pose is difficult at first. Perform Sirsasana against a wall. If possible, do the pose in the corner of a room, so that the right-angled walls touch your shoulders, hips, and outer heels. Initially use an assistant to help raise the legs off the floor. Follow steps one and two above. Once the body is positioned perpendicular to the floor, rest the hips against the wall and swing one bent leg up at a time, bringing each foot to rest on the wall above the buttocks. Lengthen the torso in this position, pressing the elbows to the floor. Straighten the legs one at a time, resting the hips, legs and heels against the wall. With practice over time bring the hips away from the wall.
• Beginners tend to take too much weight onto the neck and head when coming into and exiting this pose, a potentially harmful situation.

Deepen the Pose:
Check the position of the inner wrists in the pose. They tend to fall outward, shifting the weight onto the outer forearms. Turn the pinkies away from the back of your head, and bring the inner wrists perpendicular to the floor. As you firm the outer upper arms inward, press the wrists actively into the floor.

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