These days, Instagram is awash with mega-flexible Yogis dispatching pin-like headstands in all manners of exquisite locations. On my recent active escape to Ibiza I re-learned this liberating manoeuvre! Of course as a child, it was a daily activity, but as an adult it’s not something I have too much cause to practice often! In the photos below, my friend and yoga legend Mel demonstrates some of her favourite poses and how to do them correctly. I was a little apprehensive at first to enter the headstand pose (a.k.a. Sirsasana), but after reviewing the benefits and under expert guidance I gave it a shot! Click MORE to get the full 8 reasons you might like to try it too (with pro supervision!)…
Sirsasana is a pose which supposedly reverses the flow of gravity, increasing blood flow to the brain, and is thought to promote more effective concentration and mental focus, through seeing the world upside down. Regardless of your belief in this, there are a set of demonstrable benefits to mention:
1) CORE BLIMEY
This little exercise, considered by some king of yoga poses requires some serious core strength to hoist the legs right up. It will target your back, obliques, the rectus abdominals and the transverse abdomens.
2) BALANCING ACT
Aside from the superficial muscles it’ll switch on the deeper stabilising muscles as well honing in on your balance skills.
3) DEEP BREATHS
I find that one automatically focuses more on the breathing – deep inhalations and exhalations. This upside down pose is said, through encouraging deep breathing, to help with more efficient oxygen-to-blood exchange and stronger more capacious lungs.
4) STRONG-ARM TACTICS
You instantly feel it in the arms. As with most yoga poses they appear deceptively simple, but holding the pose is often harder and more fatiguing than lifting heavy weights. This pose will tone your arms, forearms as well as shoulders, in order to keep you upright a release some to the pressure off of your head and neck.
5) A MINI FACIAL
This pose is thought to ‘nourish’ the face by increasing the circulation to the skin, and thus stimulating a sequence of blood drain & flow to the face.
6) ANTI GRAVITY!
When sitting or standing, gravity pulls fluids downwards. By performing headstands the idea is to reverse this impact on the circulatory system. This system is made up of the heart, lungs and the entire network of vessels that provide oxygen and expel carbon dioxide and other waste products from the cells. Arteries fan out like a delicate and detailed system of tributaries from your heart, which pumps nice freshly oxygenated blood onward from the lungs.
Veins bring the blood back to the heart and constitute a low pressure network that relies on movement 0f muscles, or indeed gravity, to get the blood flowing. Various valves stop backwash, at regular intervals, and make sure fluids are kept moving onwards as they travel to the heart – that’s a system called ‘venous return’. By turning one’s self upside down through sirsasana it promotes this process of venous return!
7. LYMPHATIC SYSTEM
The lymphatic system is responsible for the removal of waste and toxins from the body. Headstands promote the draining of lymphatic fluid, enabling the whole body to be regularly detoxified. Because it’s a ‘closed pressure system’, and it has one-way valves to keep fluid moving towards our hearts, if we’re turned upside down, the entire lymphatic system is stimulated – thus theoretically strengthening your immune system.
8) CARDI-OH YES!
The heart works against its usual perception of gravity – by doing the headstand, it reduces some of that strain as de-oxygenated blood flows more easily from the extremities of the heart, which therefore improves cardiovascular function.
I’d highly recommend seeking the assistance of a professional instructor to help when attempting a headstand as it does put a lot of pressure on your neck, spine and full body, so correct technique is critical. Also I’d certainly start by practicing against a wall for extra support and margin of error.
1. Interlock your fingers and place your forearms on the floor.
2. Place your head inside your interlocked hands
3. From this point walk your feet in as close as possible to your upper body. Your hips are aligned at the top
4. Then slowly lift one leg up keeping it bent (don’t kick up). Make sure to engage your abs and avoid pushing your hips back
5. Then slowly roll your legs upwards, with toes dangling down towards the floor.
6. Finally, straighten the knees and thus point toes up in the air.
7. Getting down is the same in reverse. Pursue the corpse position for a few minutes afterward to redistribute blood properly through the body.
N.B. The Sirasana is contraindicated in the following situations: high blood pressure, heart palpitations, glaucoma, detached retina, conjunctivitis, brain disease, brain injury, menstruation, severe hypotension or hypertension, hiatal hernia, obesity, neck injury, and back injury. Always seek professional instruction before attempting this pose.