Pose of the Month
With Chrisandra Fox
Photography: Faern, Faernworks.com
Sirsasana (Headstand) balances the body, mind and emotions, and can initiate a playful dance between the expanse of our spirit and the depth of our soul.
Like two sides of a coin, the play of spirit and soul reveals two interconnected dimensions of being.
According to the teachings of Michael Meade, Spirit reflects the outward and uprising expansion of energy that is intelligent, unifying and transcendent. Soul brings us more deeply into the body and the heart, its multiplicity of experience, the depth of emotion and even the mystery of not-knowing.*
As we align the body and mind in headstand, cultivate our breath and increase concentration to maintain the balance, our spiritual dimension, or sense of awareness expands. We may become one with the form, gaining a sense of absolute-ness in our experience.
As we hold this pose, allowing the stability to build, our focus may be drawn toward our individual, unique self and a multiplicity of experience. We may meet resistance in our sensations, our thoughts and emotions – anything that prevents us from perceiving the “Oneness” we may have felt before.
As we re-connect with our breath to receive our present experience (fear of falling, shakiness, boredom) and meet resistance with patience, we enter a soulful place of intimacy within ourselves and to our Source, bringing us back to the Oneness and the expansion of spirit.
The journey from spirit to soul and soul to spirit is a continuum we may experience in every pose, from basic to advanced.
Sirsasana so elegantly invites us to move between the ecstatic outward expression of spirit and the co-existing deep inward movement of soul, providing an opportunity for balance.
Headstand requires tremendous steadiness, both in the physical body and in mental concentration. As your body and mind gain stability, you may notice a quality of lightness, an ascending grace and perhaps an expansion of breath that inspires you to go further and further and higher and higher.
As you meet that ascending quality within yourself, notice the downward wave of gravity that helps you root and ground.
As the matrix of your bodymind reorients to being turned upside down, you may feel your body falling out and falling back in toward the center. Use that “falling” to attune and adjust to the subtle shifts in your body that help you stay steady, as though you are riding a wave of energy and moving more deeply inside that wave to connect to its stillness.
By cultivating this recognition of non-striving, but responding to where we are, we enter that soulful space of comfort and ease within our own skin, while shining in the bright light of awareness.
Come to all fours. You’ll lower your forearms to the floor and bring your elbows shoulder-width apart. Interlace the webbing of your fingers, bring your weight onto both pinky fingers. Lower the crown of your head to the floor so that the back of your head rests in your hands.
Then, curl your toes under and lift your pelvis up. Walk your feet in toward your head until you can stack your shoulders above your wrists. Draw your shoulder blades strongly in toward your chest and press down through your forearms, lifting your outer upper arms up and rolling your shoulders away from your ears.
Engage strongly through your abdominal muscles.
Bend your knees, inhale and lift your legs up toward the sky. As you invert your legs, re-establish your root to the earth by pressing firmly through your outer wrists and directing the weight through the crown of your head. Keep your inner wrists drawn in toward the sides of your head and press them down into the floor, so that your forearms do not turn out.
Reach the soles of your feet up, draw your inner thighs back lightly. You’ll want to lengthen your tailbone up toward your heels and engage your abdominal muscles to help steady your body in the pose. Lift and spread your toes.
As you activate your legs, they will become firmer, creating a sense of lightness and ease. Slow down your breath to strengthen your lungs and help steady your body.
In the beginning of practice, you will likely focus on physical balance. As you cultivate steadiness, make subtle adjustments to deepen your sense of “being” in the pose.
For example, connect the bases of your big toes, as though creating a seal between your feet. Soften your eyes and muscles of your face. It is helpful to direct your gaze just beyond the tip of your nose or at a point on the floor.
Stay for 5-15 breaths. Gradually increase the length of your stay by a few more breaths each time you practice. You can work toward staying for up to 10 minutes or longer.
To come out, bend your knees and lower your feet to the floor. Rest in Balasana (Child’s Pose), allow your neck to release and your entire body to relax.
Avoid practicing Sirsasana on the first few days of your moon cycle, or if you have head, neck or shoulder injuries, high blood pressure or heart conditions. Ask your teacher to show you how to do headstand if you have never practiced this pose before.
The ancients advise practicing this pose during the pre-dawn ambrosial time of the morning. As the sun rises, its radiant beams awaken the pituitary and pineal glands and stimulate the expansion of consciousness, the ascension of the spirit.
In headstand, the winds of energy that are generally moving toward the feet and out through the senses come back toward the central channel of the spine and deeply in toward the core of our being. Gravity assists this flow of energy toward the crown of the head, or the “aperture” through which the soul is said to enter and leave the body upon birth and death.
Beginners will benefit by using a wall and taking more weight into the arms to help with stability. With practice, as the body becomes firmer and lighter, you can take more weight directly onto the crown of your head, settling the mind into a soulful seat of comfort and ease.
Chrisandra teaches Sirsasana and other practices to balance spirit and soul at 5 classes weekly at Yoga Tree.
*This article was inspired by the teachings of Michael Meade.