The Secret to Sirsasana: learn yoga headstand
Sirsasana is nicknamed the king of yoga poses. It’s a basic posture that will give you balance, control and grace. Yoga headstand was the first inversion yoga pose that I mastered. It took me a year to be comfortable and balanced in the pose as I was so afraid to be upside down and lacked strength in key areas. In this blogpost we’ll cover the secret to doing a headstand with ease and grace, the breakdown of the pose, how to prep for headstand and the most common mistakes.
This post is based on a live webinar I hosted in March 2018, you can watch the replay by clicking here.
I know that we’re all busy and don’t have time to read long blogposts, so I’ll start by revealing the secret to sirsasana. Everyone can develop strength and learn techniques, that’s not the secret to learning yoga headstand, what keeps people from doing inversions and headstands is..
Mindset is key.
If you don’t believe that you’re able to do inversions, you won’t be able to do them. If you believe that you will fall and hurt yourself, you will fall and hurt yourself. If you don’t feel proud and confident, you won’t be able to support your body and rise up.
Inversions are intrinsically connected to a strong core and this is where the third energetic centre, the solar plexus manipura chakra resides. Qualities like ambition and confidence emerge here. You need confidence to pull off an inversion.
“Inversions bring you face to face with your insecurities and fears. It provides a wonderful laboratory to observe and work on overcoming such emotions ”
– Linda Sparrow, editor Yoga Journal
I believe that yoga poses are an opportunity to learn about yourself. Especially advanced poses trigger a lot of emotions and allow subconscious beliefs to come up. It’s your responsibility to either:
Take them as truth, believe them and stay in the same place
See them for what they are: conditioning from the past that’s holding you back from doing a headstand and stepping into your power.
Before I tell you what poses you need to do or what areas you need to train, I want you to answer following questions:
What’s the belief that’s holding me back from doing headstand?
Why do I believe that I can’t do a headstand?
What do this stories give me?
Who would I be without the stories?
What would my dream practice look like?
The secret to sirsasana is to become aware of your limiting beliefs and replacing them with an empowering vision. Write down your dream practice in the present tense in your journal. It will look something like this:
I breathe deeply. I put my forearms on the floor, interlock my hands and I gently wrap my hands around the crown of my head. I extend my legs and shift my hips above my shoulders. I feel the weight of my body coming onto my arms. With ease and grace, I hug the knees into the chest and my feet float up. From this stable foundation, I tilt my pelvis back and extend my legs up. I breathe deeply and balance. My body is aligned and my weight is distributed equally. With control I lower the legs and use my abdominal muscles to hold the legs as long as possible until carefully allow the feet to touch the floor. I come into balasana and express my gratitude for showing up on my mat and being courageous to perform this posture.
Before practicing, always read your dream practice.
The belief that was holding me back from doing headstand or inversions for years was that I wasn’t someone who did gymnastics or was ‘good with her body’. I went to music school when I was younger and I always considered myself different from people who did sports or dance. I never learned handstand and was afraid to be upside down. I believed that story because it protected me from failing and people making fun of me if I tried to do the pose.
Becoming aware of these stories is the first step to releasing them. We don’t realise that 90% of our behaviour is guided by these unconscious stories and beliefs that we tell ourselves. When these beliefs start hindering our progress or happiness, we should do inner work to work through them.
The breakdown of the pose
Now, let’s get into the technical anatomy stuff. You need a certain degree of knowledge and awareness about your body to perform these postures. Don’t worry, I’ll keep it as easy and bitesize as possible.
Objectively speaking, sirsasana is not complicated: it’s a symmetrical pose. It requires the strengthening of a couple areas:
- Upper arms
- Abdominal muscles
- Hip flexors
One area needs to be stretched:
The fastest way to learn headstand is by not doing headstand, but by doing poses to work on the separate areas for a couple of weeks. It may look like a detour, but in the end you’ll master the pose much faster than someone who tries to jump into headstand every day without any background information.
This is by the way what you always need to do before going into an advanced pose: thinking what areas of your body need to be open and strong and warm up the body by doing those poses or movements first.
Incorporate following poses in your daily practice and you’ll be floating into sirsasana in no time.
Uttansana with interlocked hands
Parivritta padotanasana C
Utthita hasta padangushtasana C
Downward facing dog
How to practice sirsasana
What I recommend is for the next 3 to 6 weeks, focus on the poses above before going into sirsasana. Add them to your daily yoga practice and become aware of the weight in your forearms and the alignment of the hips and shoulders. Record yourself while doing it to gain more body awareness. Now, we will focus on the headstand with the knees tucked in.
If you’re able to balance here, then you can do anything you want with the legs, but first you need to master the foundation. After you’ve warmed up (at least 20 minutes), start practicing near the wall.
For a detailed step by step tutorial, please check the video of the live webinar by clicking here.
Come sit on your knees in vajrasana, cross arms and touch elbows for correct distance.
Interlace the fingers: little finger inside the cup you make with your hands, thumbs across each other
Place the crown of the head down. If you draw a line from each ear up to the crown of your head, you will find the crown of the head where the 2 lines meet.
Extend the legs and walk your feet up until your hips are above the shoulders. Don’t come up as long as you’re shoulders and hips are not aligned.
Push into your lower arms to lift head. This is the action we want to do when we lift up.
Hug one knee in and lift one foot of the floor, then the other one will follow. At the same time tilt the pelvis so your lower back is straight (posterior pelvic tilt). Stay here and balance
Before extending the legs, stay in Acunchanasana. When you feel confident balancing in Acunchanasana, move away from the wall as soon as possible to avoid unnecessary attachment.
Most common mistakes
- Not being warmed up
Do at least 4-6 rounds of sun salutations
- Not developing upper body strength first
Practice forearm planks, dolphin pose, navasana before going into the pose.
- Not doing the mindset work
Uncover limiting beliefs and replace them with empowering visions.
- The shoulders are not above the hips before coming up
Record yourself while practicing to see if your body is aligned or not. We often think our hips are stacked, but in reality there half a meter away from the shoulders.
People jump into the pose to compensate lack of strength and or flexibility. When you jump you don’t have control and are prone to injury.
- Round back
A round back can indicate that the hamstrings are too short. Work on the lengthening the hamstrings before practicing sirsasana.
- Banana back
A banana back is caused by lack of core strength. Practice forearm planks, dolphin pose, navasana before going into the pose.
- Wall attachment
As soon as you become more confident in the pose, move away from the wall. You need to learn to trust yourself and your body. You can use the wall as a tool to practice variations, but a sense of stability should come from within.
I advice to check out the webinar if you want to go more in-depth in how to get into the pose and the most common mistakes. Click here to watch the video
If you want to receive the PDF of webinar presentation, please leave your email below and we’ll send it to you right away.
Become a member of The Adiyogini’s Conscious Club. It’s a free Facebook group. Every Friday you can share recordings or pictures of poses and get free feedback and support from me.
Book a private yoga class with me to work on headstand. Drop me a line at [email protected]