Shirsha means the head, and Shirshasana is a pose in which the body stands inverted on the crown of the head, held straight with the support of the forearms. As a result of its immense benefits, it has earned the title of the king of all asanas, or yogic poses.
To practice this pose, follow these steps:
- Spread a comfortable mat or blanket on the floor. Fold double, if necessary, to provide extra cushion.
- Kneel down and interlock the fingers of both the hands; place the arms, joined at fingers, on the floor. Keep the elbows shoulder width apart, so that the arms look like the sides of an equilateral triangle.
- Place the head inside the hollow space created by the palms so that the crown of the head touches the floor while the back of the head touches the palms. Head should not be on the palms.
- Move a little towards the head, on the knees.
- Inhale. Slowly placing body weight on the arms and the crown of the head, raise the legs up.
- Retaining the breath, slowly straighten the legs till the whole body becomes straight and vertical. Slowly exhale; breath from the abdomen, slowly but deeply.
- Concentrate on the brain, or between the eyebrows.
- Hold the pose for as long as you comfortably can, but not too long in the beginning. Then, bend the knees, lower one leg, then the other, and come down slowly.
- Shirshasana must be followed by Balasana, the child pose, and Tadasana, the palm tree pose, in that order. This is required to slowly bring back the body into the normal mode before you resume the normal activities, or go on to other poses.
Being an inverted pose, shirshasana increases blood flow to the brain with accompanying benefits in the sphere of mind and intellect. Alongside, it also rejuvenates the body and stimulates the flow of spiritual energy, called prana, in it. In fact, it has so many benefits that they have to be discussed under separate heads, as follows:
- Improves blood circulation in the head
- Relieves pressure and pain in the lower part of the body in general, and lower back in particular
- Improves overall physical balance
- Facilitates concentration and improves memory
- Increases intellectual capabilities
- Sharpens senses
- Helps one develop a deeper insight into life and its different aspects
However, Shirshasana is an advanced pose and requires great care. Don’t attempt it unless you have sufficiently practiced poses involving forward and backward bends and twists, developed sufficient strength in neck, back and shoulder muscles, and improved breath control and balance. In the beginning, it is always advisable to practice it under the supervision of an expert.
You can take the help of a wall, or specially prepared props, for support in the beginning. Practice Ardha Shirshasana, or the dolphin pose, before attempting Shirshasana. It will develop strength in upper parts of the body and will provide a smooth transition to Shirshasana.
Do not practice Shirshasana if you suffer from any of these conditions – high blood pressure, palpitation, glaucoma, detachment of retina, conjunctivitis, brain, neck or back injury, as well as obesity. Do not practice it if you are a menstruating or pregnant woman. Exit the pose immediately if you feel like coughing, sneezing or yawning.
Taking care of these precautions, you can practice Shirshasana and benefit from its immense physical, mental and spiritual advantages.