Often referred to as ‘The King of all poses’, Sirsasana has people excited to get to class or running for the hills. Inversions tend to have that effect, either filling people with fear or excitement (or both). But given the long list of benefits for this pose alone (it’s said to improve circulation, strengthen the core and provide fresh blood flow to the pituitary and hypothalamus glands – essential to our overall wellbeing), it’s no wonder this pose is constantly in the spotlight.
Like anything that seems a little scary or out of reach, we need support, a mindful approach and a little leap of faith. So often we see pictures of poses and believe there is just one way to do them and yet, with a little creativity, we could find ourselves enjoying an experience or pose we once thought was out of our reach. If Sirsasana has got you curious, then read on…
Launched in 2008, FeetUp is one of our team’s favourite ways of getting the heart above the head and we love it as much today as we did after our first go. By removing the pressure from the neck and spine, FeetUp acts as a headstand practitioner’s best friend. Shaped like a little stool with room for your head, FeetUp’s ergonomic bolster design allows your body and shoulders to rest and your hands to take hold of the stool legs either side. Kilian, FeetUp’s founder, believes that from your very first attempt, you can experience success.
All participants in my workshops and classes – old, young and in between – have succeeded in doing the headstand. It’s more about trust rather than strength. Kilian, FeetUp’s founder
As well as being great for beginners, FeetUp also offers Sirsasana regulars the opportunity to explore countless new ways of having fun upside down by exploring different ways to come into the pose and leg variations once you’re up.
An alternative to the FeetUp is to use two Iyengar chairs in the same way. The chairs go against a wall and face one another with folded blankets resting on the seat base to cushion your shoulders. The chairs need just enough space between them to get your head in between them. To start, just nestle your head and shoulders in between the chairs, your hands can take hold of the side of the chair away from the wall. Begin to walk your feet towards your face until you feel your hips begin to stack over your shoulders. From here, you can work to draw your knees in towards your chest and either walk your feet up the wall or try taking both legs up at the same time.
To work towards Sirsasana unassisted, then prep by exploring specific poses to develop your shoulder and core strength. Plank and dolphin pose are our go-to’s for building this and they prove to be the perfect patterning exercises to prepare you for taking flight.
Although translated as ‘headstand’, there is barely any weight placed on your head in Sirsasana. Instead, we work to draw the shoulders away from the ears and press down firmly through the forearms so that most of the weight is taken through the arms and not the head/neck.
For the next step, come to kneeling facing towards a wall. Set your foundations by interlacing your fingers and then tuck your little finger under towards your palm and out of the way. Make sure your hands aren’t clasped together and there is enough space for an imaginary tennis ball to rest between your hands. Place your forearms to the ground and check that your elbows are underneath your shoulders. Be sure not to cup your head, instead allow your head to just lightly touch the wrist creases, crown of the head very lightly touching the ground. Another option is to use a brick to create space in your shoulders and form a solid foundation, as per the image above.
Once you have a grounded foundation, press down through your forearms, drawing your shoulders away from the ears and from here, lift your knees away from the floor, returning to dolphin pose. Begin to walk your feet towards your elbows until you can’t anymore. Be mindful not to collapse into the lower back, ideally we are looking to get to a place where the hips are as close to stacking the shoulders as can be. This can be a great place to stop and practise. If you’re ready to take flight, bend both knees in towards the chest and work to lift your knees up to your armpits, eventually straightening both legs. Gather your front ribs in to avoid any kind of ‘banana’ shape through your spine. Alternatively you can also explore coming up by bending one knee in towards your chest and with your other leg straight, explore little bunny hops with your bent leg until eventually your straight leg kicks up and the second leg can follow. When you’re ready to come down, retrace your steps and rest in pose of a child for a few rounds of breath, until you’re ready to come slowly up to a seated position.
As always, we would love to hear from you! Whether it’s about your yoga journey on or off the mat, please reach out on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter or by calling our very friendly customer service team on 0333 400 7777.
*We feel strongly that headstands are best learnt face-to-face with the guidance of an experienced teacher. Contraindications include neck injuries, extremely high blood pressure, ear and eye problems, if you are menstruating, or have acid reflux.
Read more: yogamatters.com