We will continue our discussion of the headstand (शीर्षासन) and work on two variations in which we use the hands instead of the forearms for support. This pose puts a little extra pressure on the head and the arms as compared to the traditional pose described earlier.
Preparation for the asana
- It is highly advisable that the shirshasana be learned under the guidance of an experienced teacher.
- Beginners should use a wall for support in the early stages. This will help them develop the necessary strength in the neck, shoulders and the head as well as help them develop self-confidence so they can eventually practice it without any support.
- This asana should be gradually learned in stages, not trying to do too much, too soon!
- Always use a cushion – a blanket or a yoga mat -to practice upon so that the head feels comfortable on the floor in the final position.
Step-by-Step (Variation 1)
- Place the mat against the wall. Start by getting into the hands-and-knees position on the mat, hands shoulder-width apart. Lift the buttocks up and position the elbows against the inside of the knees as if you are getting ready for the crane pose (bakasana).
- Gently lower the crown of the head onto the floor and begin to lift your feet off the floor until the buttocks are above the shoulders.
- Using the core strength, raise the legs up keeping the knees bent. When the knees reach a vertical position, raise the feet up as well so that the whole body is in a fully vertical position. This is the final shirshasana position.
- If you are a beginner, you may like to rest your feet against the wall. Avoid resting the buttocks against the wall. After a few days of practice, you may experiment by lifting the feet off the wall. Once you feel confident of balancing your body in the final position, you may attempt to practice this asana away from the wall.
- You can maintain the final position for as long as comfortable. To come out of the pose, we use a technique which is just the reverse of what we used to get into the pose. Start by bending the knees, bringing the heels against the buttocks.
- Start lowering the knees toward your chest and then slowly lower the feet to the floor. When the knees and the feet are on the floor, then roll the buttocks back to rest in the child pose (balasana) for about 8-10 breaths.
Step-by-Step (Variation 2)
This is a slightly more challenging version of the pose compared to the one described above. In this variation, we try to come up with the feet together and with the legs straight.
- In this variation, we start with a slightly wider stance of the hands. Place the palms close to the edge of the mat with the fingers facing sideways. Place the crown of the head on the floor slightly in front of the hands
- Raise the knees up and keeping the feet together, start walking the feet toward the forehead.
- When the buttocks come up vertically above the shoulders, begin to lift the legs off the floor, without bending them. This may require a fair amount of core strength. Finally bring the legs up to a fully vertical position. This is the final shirshasana position
- You can stay in the final position for as long as comfortable. To come out, we begin to lower the legs, again without bending the knees if possible, until the feet touch the floor. At that point you can roll the buttocks on the heals and rest in the child pose (balasana) for about 8-10 breaths.