If you’ve seen or practiced yoga for any length of time, you know that headstand is a pose that is sought after and frequently photographed. Go to any power vinyasa class, and you’ll see students popping in and out of headstands in between chataurangas. Headstand seems to be the pose to progress to, and for the longest time in my own practice, it eluded me. For many, myself included, headstand, or just being upside down is a scary feat. But once you experience it, you feel a rush of energy as if you just conquered Mt. Everest.
Besides the physical benefits of Sirsasana, let’s face it, headstand shows your ability to change perspective and get out of your comfort zone. The benefits of inversions, particularly headstand, is it strengthens and aligns the arms and shoulders, it brings circulation to the face, neck and brain, reverses the effects of gravity on the lungs and diaphragm, and energizes and increases your stamina.
So, what do headstands and meditation have in common? And how did meditating regularly improve the quality of my headstand? First, anytime you are in a pose and the bones are aligned with one another, the muscles have to do less work against gravity. You’ll begin to notice that holding a posture longer becomes easier, and you actually feel light when you are in good alignment. In Sirsasana, you want to have the body stacked in line with one another to relieve the pressure from the head and neck. By evenly distributing the weight into the forearms, and maintaining a broad base in the shoulder girdle, you can hold this pose with ease.
Lately, when I have been meditating, I will imagine the two sides of my body. Starting at the back of the head, at the occipital ridge, I bring my awareness to the even distribution of weight between the two sides. Working down, I will sense my shoulder blades and even them out, hip bones, etc., until my body is resting comfortably on the floor, the points that make contact evenly making contact with the earth.
I noticed a distinct change in how the pose felt and how much longer I could hold the pose.
When I brought this mindset into my headstand practice, I noticed a distinct change in how the pose felt and how much longer I could hold the pose. As I began to press into headstand, I would bring my focus to the forearms and ask myself, how is the weight being distributed? Am I pressing down more on one side than the other? If this was the case, I would focus on bringing equal weight into the forearms while breathing in a smooth and steady manner. I immediately felt the pressure release from my head and neck, and I felt lighter in the pose as a result.
Same principle with the legs. Activate the legs, pressing them lightly against each other evenly, which creates a long line of energy from the soles of the feet down to the crown of the head. I would again, imagine each side independently, and then bringing my awareness to the whole. Both sides working in unison to sustain the pose with effortless ease. This particular asana, Sirsasana, teaches the body to rest while in a state of activity.
Meditation teaches the mind to rest and stay neutral to whatever life is throwing at us.
Meditation does the same for the mind. It teaches the mind to rest and stay neutral to whatever life is throwing at us. I will often meditate and teach a two-sides become whole meditation that can be used in any setting, on or off the yoga mat.
I will now share with you a snippet of this such meditation. Practice visualizing each side of the body as a separate entity. Bring your full awareness to that space. Invite and welcome in any sensation, feeling, emotion. Then do the other side. Once you’ve spent a few minutes of each side independently, yoke the two together to feel whole, feel at ease, and feel peace. Take this with you on and off the mat and notice what changes when you operate from this space of wholeness, of ease. Namaste!