The yogic headstand, or Sirsasana, is often referred to as the father of all yoga poses, and for good reason. This pose is a complete inversion, which temporarily reverses the effects of gravity on the body, and promotes clarity of mind, good posture, and circulation.
Although it’s quite a challenging pose, it’s a wonderful exercise to incorporate in your daily yoga practice, and can be learned by almost anyone. I used to find this hard to believe until I saw a demonstration by an eighty year old man who began to practice yoga after retiring. Of course, it does take some persistence to learn to do the asana correctly, but all that hard work will eventually pay off.
Preparing to Do a Yogic Headstand
Clear a space to practice next to a bare wall, with plenty of open space in all directions. If you have a yoga mat, lay it out perpendicular to the wall. If your floor is hard or your head especially sensitive, you can fold a blanket several times and place this pad on the end of your mat (by the wall) for a more comfortable experience.
Realize that this process may take time, and you don’t have to complete the full pose to get a lot of the benefits. As you go through the steps, stop wherever you feel comfortable, and keep repeating the process daily. Eventually you should gain enough strength and confidence to do a headstand.
While practicing, it’s perfectly normal to fall a few (or more than a few) times. Practicing against a wall helps, because it prevents you from falling in the most uncomfortable direction. A common guideline in yoga is to stop for the day once you’ve lost your balance three times, since you’re more likely to focus better when you’re fresh.
How to Do a Yoga Headstand
Kneel on your yoga mat, facing the wall a few feet away. Sit on your heels. Grab your left elbow with your right hand, and vice versa. With your forearms in this position, place them on the mat in front of your knees.
Keeping your elbows where they are on the mat, release your hands, bring them forward and clasp your fingers together. Place your clasped hands down on the mat. Keeping your fingers interlaced, bring your palms apart. Place the crown of your head on the ground, with your head against your open palms.
Straighten your legs, bringing your hips up off the floor. Walk your feet in towards you until your back feels straight. If you bump up against the wall, you’ve gone too far. Bend one leg and bring it in close to your chest, lifting your foot to your hip area. Bend the other leg in the same way, balancing carefully. Keeping your legs bent, raise your knees until they’re directly over your hips. Straighten your legs and stay in the headstand as long as you like.
Reverse the process to return to the ground, or, if you start to lose your balance, at least try to fall in the direction of your mat.
Yoga Headstand Variations
If you’re able to hold a headstand comfortably for more than three minutes, there are lots of variations you can experiment with. Try doing leg lifts by bending at the waist, keeping your legs straight, and lowering your feet to the ground, then raising them again in the same way. Or, try doing splits in the air, twisting your hips to each side, folding your legs into the lotus position, and so on.