The most well-known asana must be the headstand pose-sirshasana. Even those people who have no contact with yogic aims and practices have heard of this asana. They have
the prevalent concept of a yogi in a loincloth standing on his head for many hours everyday, with his bed of nails beside him on which to relax afterwards. This concept usually comes from the favourite cartoon portrayal of the
yogi in this position. Recently, in fact, we saw a cartoon in which a most unlikely looking man was standing on his head while studying a book. When his wife asked him what he was doing, the man replied: “I have heard that the headstand improves memory, so I’m studying for my exams in this position.” In one of our ashrams overseas the milkman places the milk bottles upside down on the doorstep every morning. He explained to the resident swami that he did it after having seen a cartoon about a milkman who did this when he delivered milk to a man who practised yoga. So sirshasana is inseparably associated with yoga.
Though there are a lot of exaggerations connected with sirshasana it is nevertheless a wonderful asana. It can give many benefits if it is done correctly. If it is done incorrectly, or by the wrong people, it can cause more harm than good. It is sometimes called the king or the best of all asanas. This is a slight overestimation for all asanas have their place. Sirshasana alone is not sufficient to give perfect health. Although it will help very much it has to be supplemented by other asanas that have specific influences on other parts of the body. It is a combination of asanas and daily practise that brings overall good health; it is not one asana no matter how good it may be.
We intend to describe all aspects of sirshasana in two parts1, which is necessary for two reasons: firstly, sirshasana and all associated details will require a lengthy description; secondly, it is an asana which should be gradually developed and mastered. All asanas should be slowly developed, but this is especially true of sirshasana. If you try to master sirshasana too quickly, then there is the likelihood of a fall from the final pose and injury to the body. Also the body must be gradually accustomed to the extra burden of prolonged durations in the inverted position; failure to do this could lead to harmful effects on the bodily system. We are therefore presenting sirshasana in two parts, which means that you, the practitioner, will be more likely to spend the necessary time preparing your body for the final pose by practising and perfecting the initial stages given in this topic. There will be less chance of anyone vaulting or catapulting themselves into the final position like an acrobat and falling flat on his back.