The first three stages
The first three stages should be perfected before proceeding to the last three stages1. This is essential so that you gradually develop control over your body and accustom the muscles and brain to a new mode of operation.
Stage 1: starting position
Place your blanket on the ground. Kneel in front of the blanket with the feet together or apart.
Interlock the fingers. Place the forearms flat on the blanket so that they form an equilateral triangle, the distance between the two elbows being equal to the distance between each elbow and the palm of the hand. Lean forwards so that the head rests on the blanket just in front of the clasped hands, the area of the head halfway between the forehead and the crown should rest on the blanket. Wrap the interlocked hands around the back of the head and adjust them so that they firmly support the head. Remember that the hands act as a framework for the head, they should not act as a cushion.
Stage 2: straightening the legs
Make sure that the starting position is comfortable and firm. Straighten the legs so that the body is supported on the head, two arms and the toes of both feet. Slowly bring the toes nearer to the face; this will progressively make the back move towards the vertical position. At a certain stage, it becomes impossible to move the feet nearer the face with the legs straight, without pushing and overbalancing the trunk backwards. This is the final position as shown. Most of the weight of the body is supported by the head in this position. Adjust your position so that you feel comfortable then proceed to stage 3.
Stage 3: raising the feet
Keeping the trunk vertical, slowly bend the legs. Bring the thighs as close as possible towards the chest. Make sure that you don’t overbalance. This stage may be a little difficult if you have a stiff body; don’t proceed beyond this point until you can comfortably bring the thighs close to the trunk without the slightest tendency to topple backwards.
The last part of stage 3 is difficult unless the trunk is as vertical as possible with the centre of gravity as far back as possible; therefore try to position your trunk so that it is as vertical as possible, but without losing balance and falling backwards. Transfer all the body weight on to the arms and head. Try to raise one foot, then both feet together about twenty centimetres or so off the ground, maintaining balance. This is the movement that most beginners find difficult. Usually this difficulty arises because of the inability to make the trunk vertical, which prevents the feet being raised without toppling forwards or backwards. With time and practice, it will become easier. If you feel stable then raise your two feet a little higher, again establishing the balance of the body. If you feel any instability, then let the feet drop lightly onto the floor, and repeat the process. Don’t let the body overbalance backwards; it is preferable to let the body overbalance forwards. If you are not sure of yourself then practise near a wall. This stage is not really difficult, but it may require a little time and practice. Don’t raise your feet more than, say fifteen centimetres off the ground until you are absolutely confident that you can raise them higher while maintaining balance. Then proceed to stage 4.
Don’t swing your legs upwards in stage 3; this is the quickest way to overbalance and land flat on your back. Do every movement smoothly and with control, by contracting the back muscles and slowly readjusting the position of
balance (centre of gravity) as you raise your legs.
We suggest that you practise these first three stages until you gain the correct balance and confidence to proceed to the last three stages of sirshasana1. This may take anything from a week to a month, or even longer. Progress carefully and don’t strain yourself. Don’t practise if you have any serious ailment, and be sure not to practise immediately after taking food.