The Headstand – Sirsasana

The Headstand is called Sirsasana in Sanskrit. “Sirs” means head and “asana” means brings together in eternal cosmic vibration.

Use this posture to open and expand your thinking

Before beginning the Headstand a student should first begin with the Downward dog and Hanging forward bend. These are called inversions because they place your head below your heart. Inverted yoga positions increase blood flow to the head and send healing energy from the earth throughout the upper torso. Practice these positions until you feel strong in them, and in general, notice an increase in focus and alertness.

At the onset, learn to go into the Headstand gently. Start by lifting one leg up a wall in the Downward dog. Then do both sides. As shoulder strength increases  begin walking your hands toward the wall, while keeping a keen eye that:

  • your left and right sides are balanced
  • your sacrum is a bridge of protection
  • your elbows aren’t locked or stiff
  • your weight is evenly distributed
  • your head is free
  • your spine is extended, not constricted anywhere

Use your biceps/triceps to lift the body. Once you have increased strength and confidence, practice the Downward dog on your elbows, treating the posture like push ups, adding: legs lifted up the wall – one at a time.

At this point in learning the Headstand it is recommended that one take a class with a teacher, in order to ascertain the exact method for the Headstand. It also gives students an opportunity to do it for the first time with assistance. They call Headstands “Kings of Asana” for a reason, as this pose it formidable, and yes, a great source of power.

Directions for the Headstand

Interlace your fingers, placing one little finger tucked under, so it is protected. Keep wrists perpendicular.

Place your interlaced hands on the floor. Keep elbows narrower than shoulders, because they naturally slip out.

Do the Down dog on your elbows, and place the top of your head on the floor between your hands. Make sure the C-curve of the cervical spine is protected.

Lift off from the floor to the wall, keeping your buttock away from the wall. Balance your weight on your elbows, and maintain your alignment. Don’t drop onto one side or the other. Watch your linear and lateral positioning.

Stay in the Headstand for short periods at first, working up in duration incrementally.

Descend slowly from the position, and rise up to an erect position one vertebra at a time. It’s best not to stay in Childs pose –  as resting your head directly on the mat can block prana (energy flow).

As you move from kneeling to upright breathe into your 3 main upper torso energy centres:

  1. Sahasrara, the Crown cakra
  2. Vishuddha, the Throat cakra
  3. Anahata, the Heart cakra

Tips for the Headstand

  • If you feel compression in any part of your body come out of the Headstand.
  • Place weight in even distribution between your head and your forearms.
  • Make micro-adjustments so the top of your head rests on the mat comfortably.
  • Direct your increased energy. Visualize where it needs to move.

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Spine Stretches – Yoga Routine

  1. Savasana with 3 Part Yoga Breath
  2. Pavana Mukta – Wind Free
  3. Jathara Parivrtti – Twist
  4. Full body outstretch
  5. Cakravakasana – Cat/Cow
  6. Balasana – Child pose

    Balasana

    Balasana

  7. Setu Bandha – Little bridge
  8. Sitting – knees pulled to chest
  9. Halasana – Plough pose
  10. Partner poses: half stretch; Virabhadrasana (warrior) 2; Vrkasana (tree pose)
  11. Bhujangasana – Cobra pose
  12. Salabhasana – Locust pose (one leg at a time)
  13. Dhanurasana – Bow pose
  14. Ardha Matsyendrasana – Sitting twist
  15. Paschimottanasana – Sitting forward bend
  16. Savasana – Corpse pose
  17. End relaxation – sample meditation “Imagine yourself floating on a cloud, stretched out long, without the force of gravity to constrict your spine. Breathe into the space between your vertibra, allow them to be free, and with this increase in freedom, let your mind be free as well. Play with the freedom… let the whole weight of your existence go. Allow all tension to drain from your body, mind and soul… breathe. Let your breath free you.”

“Eleven Activities of Vipashyana Meditation” – from Thrangu Rinpoche

An Ocean of the Ultimate Meaning is an advanced book in the practice of Mahamudra meditation. The author translates and gives an exhaustive commentary on the longest and most comprehensive of the three classic treatises on Mahamudra, originally composed by the sixteenth-century scholar Wangchuk Dorje, the Ninth Karmapa. It’s an irresistible read and quite hard to put down… but one must not rush it. The book contains lifetimes of wisdom.

Within the book is a list of Eleven Activities of Vipashyana Meditation, the contents of which succinctly distill the ancient and profound teachings of Mahamudra into a digestible overview of the method. This is especially useful for yogins who have had some experience with Mahamudra but who want to delve into it daily. Here is the list:

Eleven Activities of Vipashana Meditation” from Thrangu Rinpoche’s book An Ocean of the Ultimate Meaning:

1. Thorough searching
Looking at the mind. What is the nature of existence (or non-existence)?

2. Discriminating examination
Cultivating awareness of:

  • non-existence of a cause
  • being devoid of any real existence
  • the absence of result.

3. Detailed analysis
Looking at the subject rather than the object, eliminating the negative tendency of seeing the mind as having a real existence.

4. Shamatha
“Whatever arises, it is just the mind.” Thus, we remain in this profound meaning without distraction. This brings a definite certainty, or PEACEFUL STABILITY. Rest in a state of Shunyate jnana (emptiness wisdom).

5. Vipashyana
Insight as a result of reaching a state of STABILITY (in terms of understanding). Looking at the nature of that stability, one gains complete realization of its nature.

STABILITY OF REALIZATION = STATE OF CLARITY

6. Union
Shamatha and Vipashyana are not distinct from each other.

7. Clarity
When dullness arises in meditation, encourage oneself through thinking of how fortunate one is. [Gratitude] refreshes and brightens the mind.

8. Non-thought
A method to pacify and bring contentment. Dispel the state of agitation (and dullness) through entering a state in which few thoughts arise.

9. Equanimity
Rest looking at the nature of the mind, free of dullness/agitation.

10. Continuity
One’s meditation is as continuous as the flow of a river. Never forgetting the nature of the mind, no distinction exists between sitting sessions and post-meditation.

11. Non-distraction
As a result of mindfulness and awareness, one’s mind is always in meditation.

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Mahamudra means “great” + “gesture” and is considered to crown jewel of all meditation practice. To find out more about it, the Dharma Fellowship has an informative essay on their website.