Monday, August 25, 2008

Yoga: The Head Stand

This is the king of asanas The Head Stand or Shirshasana is considered to be one of the most beneficial postures for both your mind and body. Chances are that sitting and standing for most of the day causes your circulation to become sluggish and your heart to work harder to pump sufficient blood. Normally, your heart works against gravity. Reversing the normal effects of gravity, the Head Stand rests the heart, aids your circulation, and relieves pressure on the lower back.

Practiced regularly, it will help prevent back problems and improve memory, concentration, and the sensory faculties. Inverting the body also makes you breathe deeply, bringing a fresh supply of oxygen-rich blood to the brain. If at first, you experience any slight breathing difficulty it will pass. Mastering the Head Stand requires no great strength. It is largely a matter of conquering your fears and believing you can do it. The key to balance is the tripod formed by elbows and hands make sure your elbows don't shift out of position. Here's how to do it:

Arms & hands: Kneel down and rest your weight on your forearms. Wrap around your hands around your elbows. Release your hands and place them in front of you, with finger interlocked. Your elbows now stay in this position.

Head down: Place the back of your head in your clasped hands and the top of your head on the floor. The hands and elbows form a tripod, making a firm foundation for the inverted body. Lower your head so that the top of your skull touches the ground and the back of it is cradled in your hands. Do not make any abrupt movements. Take the next step slowly.

On your toes: From the crouched position, straighten your knees and push your hips up above your head. Then, keeping your legs straight, stretch up high on your toes. Keep your back straight and your hips directly over your head. Walk your toes in toward your head. Do not drop your hips or bend your knees.

Half Head Stand: Now bend your knees, bringing them to your chest. Arch your back slightly, as you do when standing up; this will enable you to balance your body in this position. Do not proceed unless you can hold this position for at least 30 seconds without feeling any discomfort.

Knees up: With your knees still bent, start to straighten your hips. Slowly and carefully, raise your knees until they are pointing straight up toward the ceiling. Your heels remain tucked in close to your buttocks. Do not arch your back too much. It should keep the natural curve that it has when you stand upright.

All the way: Straighten your knees and lift your feet up toward the ceiling. Stretch your feet up, keeping them flat and parallel to the ceiling. Keep your knees straight, and do not allow your legs to drop back. Tighten your abdominal muscles. This maintains correct posture. Support your weight by bracing your elbows against the ground. At first, hold the Head Stand for 30 seconds; as you become more skilled at adopting this pose, gradually increase the time to 3 minutes. Always come down before you start to feel tired. Leave the pose slowly and under control. Rest the back of your head against your hands. Relax, breathing through your nose.

Coming out: You should leave this asana as carefully as you entered it. Do not move jerkily or quickly, or you may lose control and fall. Bend your knees and lower them. Straighten your legs. Bring your feet to the ground, and then lower your knees. Lower your body so that your buttocks rest on your heels as in the Child's Pose. Finally, relax your hands and return to the full Child's Pose. Do not lift your head up straight away. Rest for at least a minute. Relax in the Corpse Pose before continuing.

However, to begin with you may wish to undertake the half head stand, progressing to the full Head Stand later.

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