Beginners can if they wish practise near a wall, especially if they are unsure of themselves. In this case, it is important that the back of the head is placed a little more than thirty centimetres from the wall in the starting position. This is important because if you place your head nearer to the wall, then the wall will prevent you raising your body into the final pose. On the other hand, if you place your head further away from the wall, then you may fall against the wall and injure yourself; instead of being an aid, the wall will become an obstruction.
The wall is to be used only to prevent any backward overbalance; it should not be used to perform the asana in anyway. When you gain confidence and proficiency we recommend that you discard the wall and practise in the middle of an open space. This will further help to develop your sense of confidence.
Method of falling
Before starting to practise sirshasana you should make sure that you know how to fall properly, especially if you practise away from a wall. This is not being pessimistic; it is a worthwhile precaution. It is better to be safe than sorry, as the well-known saying goes. We don’t expect you to fall, but it can happen even to those people who have been practising sirshasana for years.
If you fall the body should be relaxed; don’t stiffen the body. You must allow the body to fall like a sack. If you fall forwards, that is, the same direction as your face, then you should fold the knees into the chest as much as possible. The impact on the floor should be sustained by the feet only. If you fall backwards, that is, behind the head, then the back should be arched as much as possible. The impact again should be sustained by the feet. No part of the back should hit the floor before the feet.
More than any other asana, sirshasana should be practised on a blanket, mat or thin cushion. It should be neither too soft nor too hard; neither too thick nor too thin. The blanket should be such that it protects the top of the head from the hardness of the floor, but not so spongy, soft and thick that it prevents one taking a firm base on the hands and head. We recommend that you practise on a blanket that is folded four times.
Correct position of the head
There are conflicting opinions on this subject. Some people say that the forehead must rest on the floor, while others say that the top (crown) of the head should rest on the floor. If one supports the weight of the body on the forehead, then the spine will be curved in the final pose, especially in the region of the neck. It the weight of the body is supported by the top of the head then there is a tendency for the body to be unstable in the final pose. From our experience we have found that the best position of the head is midway between these two extremes. That is, the head should be placed so that a point midway between forehead and the top of the head rests on the blanket. You must experiment for yourself to find this position. If you feel comfortable with the forebead or crown of the head on the floor, then practise in this way.
Position of the hands and arms
The fingers of the hands should be interlocked behind the back of the head. The hands should be wrapped around the head; they should not be placed under the head. The hands should be adjusted so that they firmly support the head.
The forearms and elbows of both arms should lie flat on the floor. The distance between the elbows should be the same as the distance between the elbow and interlocked fingers of each hand (at the back of the head). Thus the forearms will form two sides of an equilateral triangle, the distance between the two elbows forming the other side. This is the most stable base that supports the body in all directions.