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Benefits of Sirsasana (Headstand) and How to Do it By Dr. Ankit Sankhe

By Dr. Ankit Sankhe +2 more

Introduction: 

In today’s instant world, we all need something that will bring peace and tranquillity to our mind. What’s more we need good body strength and immunity to match. Yoga is the ancient practice which is adapted even in modern world to achieve holistic health. It has been highly beneficial in maintaining physical, mental, and psychological balance. Numerous yoga postures or asanas positively impact day-to-day behaviour, decrease stress, and improve back stability.1 

sirsasana benefits

Yoga has gained more popularity since its introduction into American culture. The people in the west have been using yoga posture or asanas to relieve their daily stress for nearly a century. As per a 2008 study, it is a 6-billion-dollar industry with 15.8 million Americans performing asanas every day. Yoga may help in increasing immunity, focus, concentration, sleep, and flexibility, along with aiding in the recovery process.2 

What is Sirsasana?  

Sirsasana also known as, Headstand pose where “Sirs” means Head and “Asana” means “Posture” or pose. It is an inverted or anti-gravitational asana.3,4 Sirsasana is often referred to as “The king of yoga poses”.2 

It is the most advanced form of yoga where the head is the prime part to be stabilized. Once the head is stabilized, the rest of the body is supported in an inverted position using forearms. One should have good forearm strength, focus, and precision to manage the handstand pose. The key to remember while performing Sirsasana or headstand pose is to retain natural curves, to prevent neck injuries.1,4 

Sirsasana allows the blood to flow down from the legs to the brain, reducing the flow to the legs and increasing it towards the brain. The brain being the automatic regulator of blood circulation restricts the excess blood flow towards itself and distributes it to the upper and middle body. Inverted posture aims to improve concentration during meditation and activate Sushumna Nadi (Central pathway through which energies flow) of the body to awaken the psychic ability of humans.3 

From my perspective, Sirshasana is like hitting the undo button on gravity! Flipping upside down might help relieve strain on the back and promote tissue regeneration by reversing the flow of blood in the legs and lower body. Plus, when your abdominal organs rest on the diaphragm, it may encourage deep exhalation and help get rid of more carbon dioxide from your lungs. It’s like a refreshing breath of air for your whole body!

Dr. Siddharth Gupta, B.A.M.S, M.D (Ayu)

Also Read: Benefits of Sarvangasana (Shoulder Stand) and How to Do it By Dr. Himani Bisht

Did you know?

  • Sirsasana practice decreases heart rate.  Source: PubMed
  • Practicing Sirsasana with the support of a wall reduces finger plethysmogram amplitude, suggesting increased sympathetic vasomotor tone. Source: PubMed
  • Practicing Sirsasana without support increases the skin conductance level, suggestive of increased sympathetic sudomotor tone.Source: PubMed
  • Sirsasana practice activates the sympathetic nervous system, regardless of the method used. Source: PubMed

How to do it? 

Performing Sirsasana needs practice and so it is necessary to learn the pose gradually with the support of wall or pillow. People can begin with preliminary poses like Sarvangasana (shoulder stand), Adhomukha Svanasana (downward-facing dog pose), Uttanasana (standing-forward bend pose), and Virasana (hero pose). This may help master the Sirsasana. During this pose, the body is inverted with head, arms and wrists balancing the body weight. Therefore, it is important to build arm strength in order to balance the inverted body weight. It should be performed on empty stomach.4 The Sirsasana must be performed under the supervision of an experienced yoga teacher. It involves inverting the body upside down and balancing the head, neck, arms, and wrists.4 

  • To start, the person should sit with bent knees on the floor, dropdown the forearms on the floor and interlock your fingers. 
  • Place the crown of your head on floor with hands at the back of your head. 
  • The whole body is then inverted slowly, stabilizing the body parts one over another in a single plane.4 One can take help from the trainer, if he is unable to turn himself upside down.  
  • During headstand or Sirsasana, the lower body controlling the posture of the body is replaced by the shoulder and joints.1  

To avoid dizziness and blurred vision caused by improper blood flow during a headstand, it is very important to maintain body posture.4            

  1. Entry Level: Where legs are in asymmetrical position with one leg bent forward towards the chest and the other in vertical position with bent knees. 
  1. Stability Level: In this position both the legs are in symmetry, and bent forward to balance the body weight on head and arms.  
  1. Exit Level: Both the legs are in the air in vertical position and the required posture is achieved. This asana is also known as Symmetrical or Double straight legs. The person exits the Sirsasana after this position. 

Hector and Jensen, 2014, American researchers, conducted a study on “Sirsasana (headstand) technique alters head/neck loading: Considerations for safety”. They revealed that the risk related to the postures can be reduced with slight modification during the entry and exit level of Sirsasana. They suggested that entering the Sirsasana pose with both legs instead of an asymmetrical or single-leg approach can decrease the load on the head. Also, quickly exiting the pose with a push of the arms reduces the involvement of the cervical spine. These modifications can ultimately decrease the load of the body during the headstand.2  

 To attain a balanced posture in Sirsasana, one should follow the seven basic step-by-step positions:1 

  • Sit in thunderbolt position (Bring feet together and sit erect on heels). 
  • Lean forward with elbows on the floor. 
  • Touch the head on the floor. 
  • Lift the hip and straighten the legs.  
  • Push up the legs with body weight supported by head and arms.  
  • Keep the legs in the air.  
  • Maintain the vertical position for at least five seconds.  

Practicing yoga is an ongoing learning process and only with continuous practice one can hold postures for a longer time and reap maximum benefits. Advanced postures like Sirsasana should be practiced under experts’ supervision with a balanced approach to avoid injuries.4 Sirsasana, an advanced posture, can only be practiced systemically, with consistency and gradually increasing the duration to avoid injuries.3 The right support and posture can make head stand safe. The two main points, head and both arms, can provide appropriate support to prevent sprain from neck.1 

In my experience, Sirshasana might be a supercharged revitaliser for your body and mind! It’s not just about balancing on your head; this magical pose actually helps relieve anxiety and other psychological disturbances. And you know what that means? It can potentially address the root causes of various disorders like diabetes, asthma, hay fever, and even menopausal imbalances.

Dr. Rajeev Singh, BAMS

Also Read: Benefits of Dhanurasana (Bow Pose) and How to Do it By Dr. Ankit Sankhe

Do You Know? 

There are some interesting facts and trivia about Sirsasana. 

  • 21st June is celebrated as yoga day across the world but it is interesting to know that it was our Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi who proposed this date in his address to the United Nation.6 
  • Ivan Stanley form Dubai performed the Sirsasana (headstand posture) for 61 minutes non-stop making a Guinness World Record.7 
  • Śirṣā in Sirsasana is among the 130 varṇavṛttas (a type of classical Sanskrit poetry), included in the second chapter of the Vṛttamuktāvalī. It is supported by an ancient Bundela (present day- bundhelkhand) king Hindupati from 19th century.8 

I would suggest Sirshasana for your nervous and glandular systems! It might be a remedy for your nervous and glandular system, especially when it comes to issues related to the reproductive system. This pose may have the power to rectify various disorders in these areas, giving you a sense of balance and well-being.

Dr. Smita barode, B.A.M.S, M.S.

Benefits of Sirsasana: 

Sirsasana has several benefits that help in balancing physical, mental, and spiritual health. Some of them are discussed below: 

1. Benefits of Sirsasana in blood circulation 

Sirsasana or headstand may improve blood circulation in lower body parts, thus rejuvenating the body.1 It also improves the circulation of blood to the brain and heart, enhancing cardiovascular function.4 The headstand may improve the blood circulation to the facial region, arms and shoulder and may also help in increasing the oxygen supply to brain.3 

2. Benefits of Sirsasana in core strengthening 

Headstand or Sirsasana may help in increasing the endurance of muscles thus strengthening the upper body including the core and arms.4 

3. Benefits of Sirsasana in psychological and neurological attributes 

Kaviyarasang, 2019 conducted a study on “Effect of Sirsasana on psychophysiology and neuropsychology”.  He assessed the effect of Sirsasana practiced for a longer duration and concluded that it may enhance the memory capacity, visual working memory level. It may also help in improving attention span, decision making, planning ability and concentration of an individual.3 

4. Benefits of Sirsasana in maintaining the balance posture 

Head stand or Sirsasana may contribute in maintaining balance and general health. By keeping the centre of pressure in small area, one can achieve the postural control. Regularly practicing Sirsasana with trained yoga teacher can help in learning the art of equal distribution of body weight which may also help in achieving postural stability.1 

5. Other Benefits of Sirsasana include:4 

  • It may help in increasing flexibility. 
  • It may improve the balance of the body. 
  • It may relieve stress by reducing the production of stress hormones. 
  • It can also help in fluid retention. 
  • It may help in improving the digestive process of the body. This may indirectly help weight management. 
  • It may remove toxins from the body. 
  • It may result in the proper supply of nutrients. 
  • It may improve hair growth. 
  • It may help in improving focus. 
  • It may also improve the blood flow toward the eyes. 

Also Read: Benefits of Halasana (Plough Pose) and How to Do it By Dr. Himani Bisht

Risks of Exercise 

Headstand or Sirsasana should be performed under the guidance of a certified yoga trainer. A few points to consider while practising Sirsasana include: 

  • Children below 7 years of age should avoid doing headstands as they are prone to injuries. 
  • Pregnant and menstruating women should avoid Sirsasana or headstands.  
  • People suffering from abnormal bulges in arteries must avoid this asana. 
  • Inverted posture increases the pressure in the eyes and should be avoided by the patient already suffering from eye related condition like glaucoma (damaged eye nerve due to high eye pressure) increased. 
  • Sirsasana should be avoided in patients with spondylosis (inflammation in bones of the spine). 
  • Obese and old age patients should avoid this posture. 
  • Patients suffering from high blood pressure or heart diseases must not perform headstands. 
  • Patients with disorders related to muscles and the skeletal system like slip-disc, cartilage or joint injury, etc. should not practice the headstand posture.4 
  • Person on psychoactive medication should avoid headstand yoga pose.4 
  • An individual suffering from vertigo, migraine and headache should avoid Sirsasana.4 

Conclusion 

Sirsasana is an advanced yoga posture which can be mastered by practicing regularly. Yoga trainers can encourage individuals to approach the head stand posture by applying more controlled technique and make them aware of load distribution during the process. With constant training, one can maintain the balance and posture in an inverted position.  

Also Read: Benefits of Trikonasana (Triangle Pose) and How to Do it By Dr. Himani Bisht

Frequently Asked Questions 

What is the Sanskrit name of Headstand? 

The Sanskrit name for headstand is Sirsasana where “Sirs” means Head and “Asana” means “Posture”.3,4

What is Sirsasana?

Sirsasana is the inverted pose where the person stands on the head with legs above the ground facing the sky, and is the advanced posture of yoga.1,2  

Which pose is called King of all poses? 

Sirsasana or headstand is described as the king of all the poses in the literature on yoga. This may be because it might be a cure for major issues like back pain, common cold, and depression.2

What are the benefits of Sirsasana?

Sirsasana may help in improving the concentration, balance and posture of the body and can reduce the production of stress hormone. Headstand can also improve digestion, blood circulation and flexibility.4 It may also remove toxins from the body. 

Who should avoid Headstand? 

People suffering from glaucoma, obesity, inflammation in spine, and blockage in arteries should avoid headstand or Sirsasana. Pregnant and menstruating women and old age people must also avoid this posture.4    

References 

  1. Chen Y, Lee CW, Chen YL, Lin HT, Chang JH. Biomechanical characteristics in yoga Sirsasana. Journal of Mechanics in Medicine and Biology. 2017 May 15;17(03):1750053. https://www.worldscientific.com/doi/abs/10.1142/S0219519417500531
  1. Hector R, Jensen JL. Sirsasana (headstand) technique alters head/neck loading: Considerations for safety. Journal of Bodywork and Movement Therapies. 2015 Jul 1;19(3):434-41. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S1360859214001843
  1. Ilavarasu J, Bhat R. Effect of Sirsasana on psychophysiology and neuropsychology: a single case study (Doctoral dissertation, SVYASA). 2019. http://www.libraryofyoga.com:8080/jspui/bitstream/123456789/1934/1/Abstract.pdf
  1. Kuchipudi P. Benefits of Sirsasana. Institute of Nutrition and Fitness Sciences; [updated on 2021 Dec ]. Available from https://infs.co.in/blog/2021/12/21/benefits-of-Sirsasana/
  1. International Day of Yoga21 June (/en/observances/yoga-day). Available from https://www.un.org/en/observances/yoga-day  
  1. UAE man to attempt longest ‘Shirshasana’ on International Yoga Day. Last Updated: JUNE 19, 2015[Cited: 2022 Aug 25], Available from: https://www.news18.com/news/world/uae-man-to-attempt-longest-shirshasana-on-international-yoga-day-1008631.html  
  1. Shirsha, Śīrṣa, Śirṣā: 15 definition, Wisdom library. [Internet] Last updated: 31 May, 2022. [Cited: 2022 Aug 23] Available from:  https://www.wisdomlib.org/definition/shirsha  

Disclaimer: The information provided here is for educational/awareness purposes only and is not intended to be a substitute for medical treatment by a healthcare professional and should not be relied upon to diagnose or treat any medical condition. The reader should consult a registered medical practitioner to determine the appropriateness of the information and before consuming any medication. PharmEasy does not provide any guarantee or warranty (express or implied) regarding the accuracy, adequacy, completeness, legality, reliability or usefulness of the information; and disclaims any liability arising thereof.

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