SIRSHASANA (HEADSTAND POSE) (continued) – Returning to the ground

You should return to the starting position by doing the stages in reverse order. The body should be lowered slowly and with control. Don’t let the body drop down, try to come down so gently that the feet make no sound when they touch the floor.

Breathing, awareness and duration

In the starting position breathe in. Hold the breath inside while raising the body to the final pose. Breathe slowly and deeply in the final position. Breathe in deeply and then hold the breath as you lower the body to the starting position.

While raising and lowering the body, the attention should be on correct movement, synchronization of the different movements and on maintaining balance. In the final position you can be aware of breathing, or the centre of the head, or you can visualize any psychic symbol in front of your closed eyes. You can choose anything. Beginners, however, should direct their awareness to maintaining balance.

Experts who are in perfect health and who have been doing sirshasana for many years, can practise for up to thirty minutes. But we don’t recommend this to most people, especially beginners. Prolonged duration by inexperienced people could cause more harm than good. Furthermore, we strongly recommend that anyone wanting to do sirshasana for more than five minutes at a time should consult a yoga school or ashram for guidance.

Beginners should start with no more than thirty seconds. This duration can be gradually increased by about ten seconds a day (about one minute per week) until the duration is five minutes. At this point you should seek expert advice. This slow increase in duration is important, for it allows the blood vessels in the brain to slowly adjust and accustom themselves to the extra blood pressure that occurs in the final pose. Also, the neck muscles must be slowly strengthened; in fact the entire body must be gradually accustomed to the inversion of the body. You must use your common sense in deciding how long to remain in the final pose. If you feel the slightest fatigue, trembling, head strain or general anxiety then stop doing the asana.

Eventually you should aim to stay in the final position for at least three minutes, since it takes a minute or so for the inverted position to bring changes in the body, especially the blood flow to the brain and the drainage of blood from the legs. Under no circumstances should you strain or stay in the final pose for longer than is comfortable.

Counterpose

More than most other asanas, the counterpose to sirshasana is essential to return normality to the body functions. Various types of counterposes are recommended by different people. Some people advise tadasana, others shavasana and some say that the body should be massaged in a standing position. We recommend the following procedure: remain in the kneeling position for about thirty seconds with the head on the ground after having lowered the body from the final pose, then do tadasana for about a minute. While doing tadasana, try to remain balanced on tiptoes for the whole minute, with the eyes focussed on a point on the wall in front of the body. If you wish, you can practise shavasana for a few minutes after tadasana.

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