Sālamba Śīrṣāsana or Supported Headstand is often referred to as the Father of all Āsanas. This grounding and foundational posture features the stacking of a long spine which aligns the chakras, and makes the crown of the head the balancing or focal point of the pose. To find security and overcome fear of inversion we must approach this posture with respect and care. To find peace in this balance, our whole being must submit to the command of the base of the pose, the crown of the head.
This is a great posture to cultivate the energy of the crown chakra. The crown chakra is brought to life when all of the other chakras are healthy and firing. Much like the initial rush of blood to the head in Headstand, the energy of the chakras feed and illuminate the crown chakra. When we find a perfect state of harmony in mind, body, and spirit, the embodiment of samadhi or merging with the Divine, we realize the full potential of the chakras. The physical embodiment of Sālamba Śīrṣāsana helps to prepare us for that.
Before practicing this posture be very mindful of your neck and whether or not this is one you should try. It is possible to use the structure of the forearms and shoulders to create a press or lift from the ground, so the crown of the head barely touches and the cervical vertebrae are bearing little, if no weight at all. However, if you have any concerns for your neck, or if you feel that this isn’t safe for you, do not practice this pose. Similar benefits and challenges to this inversion can be found in forward folds and handstand.
Try these stages and variations of Headstand:
Option 1 – Śīrṣāsana Prep. From all fours, place interlace the hands. Place the elbows on the mat about shoulder width apart and press the forearms and blade edge of the hands into the mat. Try to maintain equal pressure from the elbows to the hands. Place the crown of the head on the mat, with the hands cupping the back of the head. Shrug the shoulders away from the ears and reaffirm the pressure through the arms. Engage the side body by hollowing out the arm pits. These actions will create space and structure, so the neck can be supported in the pose. Tuck the toes, lift the hips, and slowly walk the feet towards the elbow. Work to stack the hips over the shoulders. You may need to add a bend to the knees to get the hips in the correct position. Breathe here, maintaining the structure of the arms and shoulders. Spend some time building stability in this prep pose before taking the feet away from the floor.
Option 2 – Split Entry. When you feel stable in strong in the prep pose, slowly lift one leg in the air. Make sure nothing in the base was compromised before going further. Gently scissor the legs together and coil slightly through the belly to hover the bottom toes off the earth. Breathe here to cultivate confidence and core control. When you are ready, lift the legs to a 90* angle. At first, it may be difficult to lift away from the floor. When we change our relationship with gravity, sometimes we need to relearn how to use our core muscle and even create a new connection with them. You may need to work with the bottom toes on the ground while you scissor and coil for a while. Resist the temptation of hopping or jumping as that can produce a wobbly and unstable entry.
Option 3 – Sālamba Śīrṣāsana. Once the ground work is established, the legs can be slowly brought completely overhead creating a lone line of the spine. Maintaining the strong foundation is key. It’s also important to keep the legs active, with a slight hug to the midline. Many times, when yogis try to bring the legs up it’s done too quickly which causes the base to jostle or become unstable. Or, they completely forget about and abandon the integrity of the base causing everything to collapse. Moving slowy, keeping the base of the forearms pressing and shoulders pulling towards the hips can mitigate these tendencies. Slight adjustments can be made to the base to maintain balance. If you feel the feet going to far past the hips, press into the elbows. If you feel the feet dropping back towards the floor, press into the fists. These adjustments should be subtle, but will help you maintain balance and find the perfect center point. Work to balance in this pose for 1 to 5 minutes. Descend slowly and rest in child’s pose when you are done.
Option 4 – Śīrṣāsana Variation. When you are able to consistently find a stable headstand, start to introduce leg variations. For the purposes of the pose we are building towards, slowly separate the legs bringing one forward and the other behind. Try to keep the hips squared. Reach the legs as long. To add more challenge, bend the back knee and reach the back foot a little farther, while maintaining balance. If needed, practice near a wall to help maintain balance and stability. Return to Headstand and work on the opposite side.
Move slowly and meditatively as you explore Headstand. Practice in a manner that is safe for you. This is something that needs to evaluated and determined on a daily basis. Follow this #PowerPose challenge @suzannewrightyoga on Instagram or at Suzanne Wright Yoga on Facebook. If you post your pictures or about your experience be sure to tag #PowerPose and @suzannewrightyoga.