Guest Author - Tracy Webb
The Headstand Pose is either loved or feared - either way, it requires respect. This asana is challenging in many ways. Firstly, being able to get into the position and secondly being able to balance yourself while upside down.
There are many differing views on the safety of this posture. Extreme caution is necessary to the practice of the Headstand Pose to ensure your safety and to avoid neck or shoulder injuries. Many teachers extol the benefits of Shirshasana calling it the king asana and recommend going into headstands daily. To begin with, I would suggest a balanced approach as time, confidence and patience are required to safely access the correct way of getting into this posture.
It is recommended for beginners to practice headstands against the wall. This offers you the support necessary to feel what its like to be upside down without worrying about being off balance too. Being in such a position can be very disconcerting as all control is lost and we are in new territory. Stay calm, focus your mind and practice long slow breathing to help your body relax.
Getting into the Headstand Pose:
Pull your mat up against the wall with the top edge nearest the wall.
Put a folded towel on the mat to place your head on if you are on a hard floor.
Kneel on the mat and interlock your fingers.
Keep your elbows close to you and no wider than your shoulders. They should resemble a triangle.
Keep your knuckles at a safe distance from the wall so you dont hurt yourself (2 to 3 inches will usually suffice).
Put the top of your head on the towel and have your interlocked hands in front of you around your head so your head is resting on them.
Push yourself up, keeping the legs straight until you are in a similar position to Downward Facing Dog.
Slowly walk your feet in closer to your head to move your weight from your feet to your head and arms.
Keep your back as straight as possible to prevent damaging the neck.
Gently push off the ground and stay with your legs bent and hold them there until you feel balanced.
When ready, point your feet upwards. Rest them against the wall.
It is important that your weight is held mostly by your arms and elbows, not all on your head.
Stay in this position for a minute or so or until your feel ready.
To come out of the posture:
Bend your knees and slowly take your legs down to the floor.
Sit in a kneeling position and go straight into Child Pose for a minute or two.
Its well worth persevering with this asana. The benefits are vast, including improvements to the cardiovascular system and circulatory system. It can also increase stamina, enhance the immune system, aid concentration and balance.
To begin, it might be worth practicing with someone who may be able to assist you in getting your feet off the ground and a class with a registered teacher is always a good idea. Dont rush this posture as your neck and shoulders already carry a lot of weight and tension. Gently and slowly is the key.
Downward Facing Dog, Hare Posture and any asana that involves balance on the elbows and arms are really useful to practice, as a way of building up strength and stamina for the full Headstand Pose.
For further support with your postures, I recommend The Yoga Bible book, available at Amazon.