“Shirsha” in Sanskrit means head while “asana” means seat/pose. It is a yoga posture in which one balances on the head for an extended period of time. Mastering this pose requires dedication and continuous effort from the yoga shadhaka (practitioner). Shirshasana has been labeled as the “King” of all poses. The brain is the seat of intelligence, knowledge, wisdom and power. It is regarded king as a successful king has a happy and prosperous kingdom. A healthy brain rules over limbs and other parts of the body.
Mythical story of the origins of headstand
It is believed that Ravanna’s mother was a staunch devotee of Lord Shiva. She used to worship Shiva’s linga (symbol of Shiva). One day this linga was stolen and she was heartbroken. Seeing his mother’s sorrow, Ravanna decided that he would get the linga back for his mother.
He went to the Himalayas and did penance for a very long time. He lit 5 fires and stood amidst them on his head for ten thousand years. Pleased by his efforts Shiva appeared before him and granted him three boons. Ravanna asked for immortality, Shiva’s wife- Parvati and the linga. Though Shiva was annoyed by his boons he granted them nonetheless.
On his way home, Sage Narada appeared in front of Ravanna and when he heard about his boon of immortality, he mocked him in disbelief. Thinking he had been tricked, Ravanna went back to Shiva to confront him. Shiva was in deep meditation and was angry as he had been disturbed and he revoked the immortality boon from Ravanna. Saddened Ravanna continued his journey back home. On his way he met an old hag and dismissed her. She was Shiva’s wife Parvati in disguise and Ravanna lost his second boon as well. Tired from his journey he decided to rest for a while and put down the linga that he had been carrying all along. When he placed the linga on the earth it sank into the ground. Thus, Ravanna went back home empty handed.
Benefits of Shirshasana
There are many benefits to practicing headstand. Lets view them as physical and psychological benefits.
- The blood supply to the brain increases. Blood and lymph accumulated in the lower limbs, pelvis and abdomen are drained back to the heart. The whole system is rejuvenated.
- It reverses the effects of gravity on our organs. Instead of everything being pulled to the feet, it reverses the orientation towards the head.
- Increases blood flow and flushes out toxins
- While inverted the breath becomes deep and slow maximizing the exchange of carbon di-oxide and oxygen. Thereby, encouraging correct respiration.
- Improves the process of digestion
- Regulates body temperature. Being inverted creates warmth
- Good for anyone who suffers from tiredness and lack of vitality
- Throws new light on old habits and patterns
- Increases self confidence and the ability to take risks
- Good for those with weak will power
- Builds strength of character
While this pose will take time to master, it is to be learnt carefully and precisely from the guidance of a skilled teacher. It is not a pose for yoga beginners, but for someone who has a consistent and growing yoga practice. While Shirshasana may be the goal there are many other accessible inversions that one can practice in preparation for Shirshasana. For example – Prasarita Padottanasana (wide leg forward bend) and Sarvangasana (all limbs pose/shoulder stand) amongst others. Shirshasana is not to be practiced if one has heart issues, elevated blood pressure, eye pressure, ear issues, menstruation and neck injuries.
Be sure to include this amazing pose in your yoga practice and let your body rejoice.