Topic 2 | Asanas: Practice
Here we will describe three of a number of variations of sirshasana, the headstand pose1:
- Salamba sirshasana
- Niralamba sirshasana
- Urdhva padmasana
Generally, we recommend sirshasana in its basic form; rarely do we teach its variations. But many yoga enthusiasts will find the variations well worth practising since they have definite characteristics and uses of their own. It is for this reason that we will discuss them here.
Salamba Sirshasana (Supported Headstand Pose)
The word salamba means ‘with support, supported’. In English, this asana can be called ‘supported headstand pose’. It is so called because the hands and arms are actively used to maintain the final pose.
Place a folded blanket on the floor. Kneel on the floor.
Place the head on the blanket so that the point of contact is midway between the forehead and the crown of the head.
Place the palms flat on the ground so that they lie on either side of the body, fingers pointing forwards.
Adjust the position of the hands, so that, together with the head, they form the corners of an equilateral triangle.
The forearms should be vertical as shown in the accompanying picture.
Raise your knees.
Straighten both legs, keeping them together.
Move both feet slowly forwards on tiptoe until your back is vertical; don’t overbalance backwards.
When you feel that most of the body weight is supported on the head then this indicates that the back is vertical.
Get ready to raise your body into the inverted pose.
Keeping both legs straight and together, slowly raise them upwards utilizing the arm muscles.
Raise them until they are vertical and the whole body is inverted.
Do not lose balance.
The final pose is shown above.
Keep the spine and legs in one vertical straight line. Breathe normally.
Stay in the final pose for as long as you feel comfortable, no longer.
Then slowly return to the starting pose by lowering the legs; the whole movement should be done smoothly, with control.
Stay in the kneeling position, head down, for about 30 seconds.
Then do the counterpose – tadasana.
Retain the breath while raising and lowering the legs. Breathe normally in the final pose.
Comparison with basic sirshasana
Salamba sirshasana is less stable than basic sirshasana. This means that it is more difficult to stay in the final pose for protracted periods of time. Furthermore, the final pose of salamba sirshasana is not as comfortable as sirshasana. Therefore, those who want to invert the body for periods of greater than, say, two to three minutes should do sirshasana not salamba sirshasana.
Salamba sirshasana, however, has the advantage that it is much easier to raise the body into the final position. It is therefore ideal for beginners.