The headstand (sirsasana) is referred to as the `king of asanas (poses)'. However, since this pose has a host of contraindications that prevent most people from practicing it, we can attempt other poses that can give similar benefits as the sirsasana without the extreme effort needed to master it or worrying about its potential contraindications.
The inversions (poses where the torso and head are placed against gravity) are unique to yoga. Though some of these practices have been copied by western fitness experts, yoga utilises a scientific precision and biological intuition that makes these yogic reversals powerfully therapeutic. We have selected five simple variations of the headstand where the focus is on the blood gush to the head.
The seated versions are simple and may be practiced by anybody who does not suffer from extreme lower back problems. The standing versions are closer to the inversions in that even the torso is placed against gravity. The benefits in the standing versions are therefore greater and closer to the original headstand.
The benefits of these poses are many. They encourage greater blood gush to the brain, thus rejuvenating the brain cells. The master glands like pineal and pituitary which have a powerful impact on our autonomous nervous system are rejuvenated. Therefore these poses ideal for those suffering from several psychosomatic problems like mental fatigue, irritability, a sense of lack of control in life and insomnia.
The lungs enjoy a powerful decongestion, making the respiratory system very efficient. The thymus or immune gland gets a boost, making you resistant to infections. The anti-gravity effect has a powerful anti-aging effect, accounting for the youthful, yogic glow that makes these practices very popular with international celebrities.
Shameem Akthar, yoga acharya trained with the Sivananda Yoga Vedanta Center, Kerala, instructs you in these five de-stress poses.
Text: Shameem Akthar
Photographs: Jahnavi Sheriff
Catch more of Shameem's yoga writings and about her upcoming workshops at jaisivananda.blogspot.com
Harmony Foundation recently published Shameem Akthar's book, Yoga for Silvers. To place an order, please write to: firstname.lastname@example.org
(This article only attempts to enthuse readers towards yoga practice and complement your existing practice. Yoga is best learnt under the personal guidance of a teacher.)
Also read: Bending for health: Yogic backbends