The Sanskrit word sirsha means ‘head’. Therefore, this asana can be translated as the ‘headstand pose’.
Strange though it may seem, sirshasana is not mentioned or described in any of the well-known yoga scriptures. Considering the benefits that it gives, this seems at first a little surprising. But more than likely the asana was passed on from guru to disciple byword of mouth and personal tuition. In this way, there was less likelihood of sirshasana being practised incorrectly and thereby causing harm. It is only in recent years that sirshasana has been fully explained in books and become widely popular with large numbers of people.
Possibly the following quotation from the Gherand Samhita describes sirshasana under a different name: “The solar region is located in the navel and the lunar region is located at the root of the palate. Nectar drops downwards from the lunar region to the solar region and is absorbed; so do men die. Hold the navel upwards and the lunar region downwards. This is called vipareeta karani mudra, secret of the tantras. The head should be placed on the ground together with the arms. Point the legs upwards, keeping the head firmly on the ground. This is vipareeta karani mudra according to the yogis.” (verses 3:28, 29, 30)
There is a similar quotation in the Hatha
Yoga Pradipika, There is in fact a well-known mudra called vipareeta karani mudra, which is an important part of kriya yoga2. But far more is implied in the practice than given in the above quotation. The above description is so vague that it could actually apply to and fit sirshasana, sarvangasana3, and any other inverted asanas, as well as the practice of vipareeta karani mudra as we know and understand it. It is possible that sirshasana was known by a different name and that it, as well as other inverted asanas, were collectively known by the name of vipareeta karani mudra, sirshasana being a modern name. We don’t however, intend to discuss this point further, for it is only supposition and certainly not very important. The main thing is the practise of sirshasana and the benefits that it gives.
Place of practice
Sirshasana should be practised in an uncluttered area, free of furniture and any other objects. This is necessary, so that if you fall you will be able to land correctly on your feet and not sustain injury. If you fall and land on top of a nearby chair, for example, then you are likely to break a few bones, or at least strain the body in some way. So make sure that the area in which you practise is perfectly clear of obstructions for at least two and a quarter meters in all directions.
The ground should be smooth, flat and firm. Don’t practise on sandy or rocky ground, on any slippery surface, or on any surface that is not horizontal.