Every yoga pose, known in Sanskrit as an “asana,” has its own way of bringing the body and mind into greater harmony. World-renowned yoga teacher B.K.S. Iyengar poetically compares the body to a bow and each asana to the various arrows with which individuals target the ultimate aim of yoga practice — the soul.
This guide offers an in-depth look at headstand pose (sirsasana).
About the Pose
Refresh your mindset with a rush of blood to the head. While it might sound rash, this pose has a reputation for its ability to increase blood circulation and give the heart a rightful rest. Deriving its name from the Sanskrit word for “head,” sirsasana represents one of the most rejuvenating poses. It’s also a pose every yoga student should aim to master. Within today’s noisy, busy, Netflix-binging, phones-in-the-face society, people sometimes forget to nourish their brains. With regular practice of this pose, you can enhance your brain’s many wonderful functions. Level: Advanced Key Benefits:
- Increases the level of hemoglobin in the blood
- Strengthens the lungs, arms, legs, core, and spinal muscles
- Relieves insomnia
- Reduces varicose veins
- People with cervical spondylosis, high blood pressure, backaches, or headaches/migraines should avoid this pose.
- If you’re currently menstruating or more than four months pregnant, don’t practice this pose.
- Bridge Pose (Setu Bandha Sarvangasana): This beginner pose encourages flexibility in the spine and shoulders, improves digestion, and expands the chest.
- Plow Pose (Halasana): This relaxing, intermediate pose replenishes energy levels, aids in digestion, and lengthens the spine.
- Shoulder Stand Pose (Salamba Sarvangasana): This intermediate pose restores the thyroid and parathyroid glands, defends against colds and sinus issues, improves bowel movements, and alleviates urinary disorders.
Recommended: Browse more of our guides on the art and practice of yoga to harmonize your body, mind, and soul.
Trying It Out
For this pose, Iyengar suggests using two folded blankets covered by a mat beneath your back, neck, and shoulders. Remember to keep your breathing full and steady as you follow these step-by-step instructions to try this pose out for yourself:
Starting in hero pose (virasana), lean forward with your elbows shoulder-width apart until your forearms rest on the floor in front of you. Interlock your fingers while keeping your elbows shoulder-width apart.
Lean forward so you can place the top of your head on the floor. In the final pose, it’s important that the top of your head — not your neck — supports your weight. At this stage, the back of your head should touch the inside of your palms as your hands lie interlocked. Don’t place any fingers underneath your head.
Straighten your knees as you push up from the balls of your feet, keeping your knees, thighs, and heels together. Take your heels off the floor so your toes support you. Walk your feet forward until you’re sure your torso is perpendicular to the floor.
Using your elbows to press into the floor, fold your knees into your chest while simultaneously pushing off from your feet. With your legs in the air, keep your feet as close to your buttocks as you can without disturbing your balance. Beginners can practice this against a wall by positioning themselves facing away from the wall and touching their hips to the wall before bending their legs slowly up the wall.
Lift your shoulders up so your spine begins to straighten. Bring your knees upward until your thighs are parallel to the floor.
Keeping your torso still, slowly move your knees toward the sky.
Once your knees fully point toward the sky, hold the pose to ensure your buttocks are tightened and your thighs and torso are perpendicular to the floor.
Straighten the knees by stretching the backs of your knees and thighs. Keep your legs and knees together while your toes point toward the ceiling. The goal is for your weight to rest on the top of your head while your elbows and forearms provide additional support. To secure the steadiness of your torso, stretch your upper arms, torso, and waist upward. Iyengar suggests holding this pose for five minutes.
Refining the Pose
Achieving maximum benefit from your yoga practice requires you to pay close attention to your physical alignment. To ensure you maintain proper alignment, ask yourself these questions:
- Is the crown of your head the only part of your head touching the floor?
- Is your chest expanded?
- Are your knees straight?
- Are your legs together?
- Are your shoulders lifting up and not drooping?
- Are your elbows shoulder-width apart?
- Legs to Front and Back: While in headstand pose (sirsasana), slowly move one leg forward and the other back. Stretch your heels away from each other. Shift your legs so both sides get stretched in the same directions. Keep your back straight in all variations.
- Legs Out to Sides: While in headstand pose (sirsasana), stretch your legs apart from each other to the sides of your body.
- Revolved Split-Legged Headstand Pose (Parivrttaikapada Sirsasana): In this variation, you extend your legs away from each other in a floating split and simultaneously rotate your legs, core, and chest toward one side.
- Tripod Headstand Pose (Mukta Hasta Sirsasana): Instead of placing your forearms on the ground with your hands interlocked behind your head, this variation involves placing your palms down with your fingers pointing toward where your shoulders would be if you weren’t upside down.
- Upward-Facing Staff Pose (Urdhva Dandasana): This variation feels like practicing staff pose upside down. After achieving the normal headstand pose (sirsasana), lower your legs in front of you so they are parallel to the floor as you tighten your core and keeping your legs together.