One of the best things about a consistent yoga practice is the transformation we see in our bodies as we get stronger and are able to accomplish some of the more challenging poses. In our goal driven society, we measure our self worth with accomplishment, and that often extends to our yoga practice – even though we all know it is not a principle taught in the yoga tradition. Even if unintentional, on some level these challenging poses have become indicative of our level of yoginess. We feel we are “getting better” at yoga as we check the poses off our mental wish list.
Sirsasana (Headstand) is one of those poses many yoga students strive to achieve. As with all poses, it has benefits and contraindications, yet the personal satisfaction of mastering the pose has little to do with them. Students keep coming back to this pose. I used to teach headstand workshops to service the quantity of students who wanted to practice headstand but couldn’t. Since studying biomechanics, I have retired those workshops and taken on quite a different approach to the pose.
Today, I use props in a variety of ways. I find it important to teach the skills involved in Sirsanana while adequately supported in order to prevent overloading the cervical spine. One of these skills is the ability to stay calm and focused on technique while in the chaos of being upside down. Below is one of my favorite ways of teaching headstand that allows students to get familiar with inverting.
But don’t think this variation is only for those new to headstand. It provides traction to decompress the cervical spine and applies some directional force to those upper traps and levators. You can also remain in this variation longer since upper body fatigue is less of a concern. Once you try it, you may lose interest in the classical version. Just sayin’.