If I have learned one thing, it is how important it is to expand your perspective. It may be comfortable and safe in that little box, but then you are missing all of the colors and animals and jokes and music that must be sought outside of your four walls. How can you be sure your opinions and preferences are the way if you have hardly compared them with any other options? THIS is one of the fantastic benefits of inversions in yoga asana. Not only does salamba sirsasana, or supported headstand, teach you about your strength and balance in a physical way, but the world literally looks different.
This month, I give you a guide to practice your perspective flip. Please, don’t rush the process. Take the opportunity to explore your body and mind as they gradually become safely capable of this asana. Remember, it ultimately is just a shape. What else, besides the aesthetics, is going on? There—that is the magic!
- Blanket (extra support under your head)
- 2 Blocks
1. Reach hands to opposite elbows. This shows you the distance apart your elbows need to be for your arm tripod. Often, we separate our elbows much to far apart. Use your measuring tool! It will make the shape much more stable.
2. Place your block or a book on top of your head. That sweet spot where the block can balance is the point that must be connecting to the floor. In this way, your cervical spine will not be stressed through flexion or extension, but it will hold stable. Cradle the back of your skull into your interlaced hands as you place that “sweet spot” on the floor or your blanket for extra padding. Hands do not need to be interlaced, they can be cupped or in prayer.
3. Come into downward facing dog in just your legs. Walk your feet closer and closer to your head to stack your hips on top of your shoulders.
4. **Helpful Trick: Notice the shortening of your outer wrists as your palms want to open skyward. Don’t let that happen! Press firmly through your pinky fingers so that your outer wrists lengthen. Your foundation points for this asana are your forearms and outer wrists. Root them with purpose.
5. Engage your mulabandha (like you have to pee but now is not the time) so that your body can be lifted with more ease. Use a firm exhale to engage your abs.
6. For your legs:
a. Lift one leg and tightly hug your heel into your glute, knee into your chest. Once your first leg is in position, do the same with the other leg. Keep hugging your heels to your glutes as you lift your knees to become parallel with the floor. One at a time, extend your legs skyward. Reach through your big toes, lighting up your inner thighs as if you were squeezing a ball in between them.
b. Lift one leg skyward, keeping it straight. Keep reaching this leg up and over until it begins to pull the other leg off of the floor (as if you were going into full splits). Use your quads in both legs! Reach through both big toes strongly to engage your inner thighs as they slowly come to meet above your shoulders (and squeeze that imaginary ball).
c. Bring your legs wide apart, as if you were in Prasarita Padottanasana. Engage your quads and inner thighs as you begin to tilt your hips over and past your shoulders. Your hips must reach past instead of stacking on your shoulders in order to counterbalance the weight of your legs as they begin to rise. Slowly, with legs fully engaged, reach them out and up until they meet. *Blocks under your feet can be a helpful training tool, giving you a mini “head start”.
7. **This pose is not meant to have your neck take on the weight of your body. That is why you have your arms as your base. Press into your foundation (arms and wrists, not head) so that you could slip a piece of paper between your head and the floor. **
8. Breathe! It all becomes so much harder when your breath flow ceases. Breathe, and smile at the view.
9. Practicing against a wall: The safety net of a wall is a wonderful tool to utilize as you gain the body awareness needed for this asana. Do your best to refrain from launching your legs onto the wall, as this will not help you for the longterm transition away from the wall.
Against a wall:
Note this last photo. This is a "banana back", where the hips are pressed away from the wall. Work more toward reaching your hips closer to the wall and your toes counterbalance away from the wall. This will bring you into a much safer alignment for your whole spine.
- Stimulation of fresh nutrients to your skin, hair, hypothalamus and pituitary glands
- Thyroid, pineal, adrenals, and even sex hormones are rebalanced
- Improved blood circulation
- Can increase focus and calm, and can decrease symptoms of depression
- Increased digestion capabilities
- Strengthens obliques, rectus abdominus, and transverse abdominus, as well as trapezius, deltoids, rhomboids, and latissimus dorsi
- If you are pregnant: Please abstain for at least the first trimester. Unless you have a very strong inversion practice already, please abstain for the second trimester, too.
- If you have a long cervical spine: If you cannot interlace your hands in position cradling your head without keeping your forearms level/parallel with the floor, this inversion will put too much pressure on your neck. Remember, you should be able to work toward hovering your head so that a piece of paper could easily slide in between your head and the floor. Not every pose is for every body.
- If you have high blood pressure: Please consult a certified physician before working with inversions of any kind, especially full inversions such as this one.
As always, tell me what you think below! Was this helpful? Which asana would you like me to break down next?