I am standing on my head. My elbows and wrists are pressing into the floor while my eyes are softly gazing at the thermostat on the other side of the room. Successfully, I am able to fade out the other yoga students who are bending in my peripheral vision, by way of my Ujjayi breathing, in and out with sounds like the ocean. A bead of sweat drips down between my breasts to my throat as my toes point upwards like prayers to the sky. My stomach is soft but engaged. My eyes are open but unfocused. My mind is clear but concentrated. My heart is open but upside down.
This is Shirshasana (sher-SHAH-sahn-ah) also known as headstand. By reversing the flow of gravity, the intestines, colon, and thyroid are cleansed thus improving digestion. The adrenal glands are squeezed and flushed out, allowing you to better adapt to stress. Being upside down obviously brings blood flow to the head which will enhance memory and bring mental clarity. Nutrients and oxygen are sent down into the brain, scalp, and eyes which helps prevent macular degeneration and bring blood flow to your hair follicles (amen to beautiful hair and 20/20 vision!). In order to do the pose properly you must be relaxed and engaged in the right places, bringing awareness to your center of gravity, helping you with the way you move and control your body in space, which you do, everywhere, everyday. By turning your focus inwards, it helps relieve depression and brings feelings of relaxation, peace, and happiness. It flushes out excess water built up in your legs, ankles, and feet which will prevent edema. Your forearms, core, and back are doing most of the work while only the slightest pressure is on the head. This will build strength, and as I have noticed, make your back look beautifully toned. Basically, headstand is the “King” of postures and should be done for at least ten breaths, or as the Master of Ashtanga Yoga, Shri K Pattabhi Jois likes to suggest, three hours. Ha!
It took me years to be able to do headstand. It wasn’t that I needed to build up the strength. I just needed the right teacher to poke me with the tip of his finger in the right place, and up my legs went. Now I find myself every morning, upside down, and wondering what it all means. So try this pose against a wall, and ideally with a yoga teacher. Soon you’ll be walking tall with luscious locks, perfect vision, and feeling awfully grateful you’ve learned the benefits of standing on your head.