Stand Up On Your Head, Part II

Headstand. Sirsasana. It falls under the category of most dangerous posture for the physical body. Your hands are sealed together, and along with your wrists they wrap around the head to form the foundation of your pose.

What could possibly be dangerous about this?

1st) As you may know, we don’t typically hold the weight of our body on our heads, which means that the most weight bearing part of our core is usually not our neck.

2nd) If we haven’t developed the upper body strength and flexibility to support our weight when we are upside-down we may still be able to get up in the posture, but our cervical vertebrae will be compressed. In general “compression” is not what we are looking for in regards to the spine.

3rd) Our legs may know where they are going when they are connected to the ground, but stick them up in the air and they may feel flimsy and uncoordinated, which will lead them to find the quickest route back to the floor. Head over heals anyone?

4) If our core muscles and internal levers cannot figure out how to levitate our legs off the floor then we will hurry into the pose by jumping. Jumping is taking a big leap of faith that gravity won’t pull us crashing down, and it also compresses the cervical vertebrae – there’s that word again.

Okay, so with all this danger, is it still worth it?

That’s for you to decide. In my experience, the benefits of headstand on the subtle body do not outweigh the risks to the physical body. That’s right, they do not. However, if we can learn how to discover headstand while minimizing the risks then the benefits do far outweigh the potential costs and it all becomes money in the bank, I mean prana in the sushumna nadi.

If you would like to begin a headstand practice I recommend working on it daily. This does not mean going upside-down daily, let’s take our time in getting there. Let’s start by minimizing our risks one element at a time. Let’s start with Risk #4, and figure out what we can do to strengthen our core in a way that will allow us to lift our feet off the floor without having to jump.

I have been teaching a series of postures in my classes lately, which have been making a big difference for students trying to elevate and levitate.

Core Elevating Series

It starts in a modified Navasana, boat pose.

Exhale and draw the legs in close while lifting the arms overhead into:

Urdvha Hasta Pinda Navasana

Inhale extend to a full Navasana.

Exhale Urdvha Hasta Pinda Navasana

Urdvha Hasta means upward hands. Pinda means compact. Navasana means boat pose.

Inhale extend to a full Navasana.

Photo by Michal Rubin

Smoothly moving back and forth between these poses 5-8x before taking rest in:

Bada Konasana

Photo by Jon Gordon

Repeat the sequence up to 3x and take time to notice the results:

This core series will help to simulate the work required of the core when you are initiating the feet off of the floor into headstand & it will tone the physical body to your eyes delight! When the core and internal levers know what to do the climb will be effortless, you’ll see.

To be continued with – Stand Up On Your Head, Part III – soon…

Stand Up On Your Head, Part I


About Joyce Englander

I teach weekly yoga classes in New York City, which focus on moving mindfully and gracefully with the breath. I believe that learning yoga is similar to learning a language, and the more you are around it the more fluent you become. This blog is an opportunity to share my thoughts and re-visit lessons from class; to create a bridge for students to translate their classroom experience into real life. I am interested in how practicing yoga can help to improve people's lives and reduce needless suffering.
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