Friday, December 21, 2012

Salamba Sirsasana or "Supported Headstand"

This blog is dedicated to my papa, J.B. Harrison, for his (I shall not share his age) birthday on December 22nd.  I chose headstand in honor of one night when my dad tried to prove to me that he could do a headstand and ended up flipped over onto his bed. Luckily he was safe…perhaps there were liquid influences involved. HAPPY BIRTHDAY, DAD!!! I love you :) 

Sanskrit: salamba sirsasana                        Western Term: supported headstand

Origin of Word
Salamba = with support; sirsa = head

Type of Asana: inversion

How To:
1.     Use a folded blanket, yoga mat, or the floor to pad your head and forearms. Kneeling on the floor, interlace your fingers and place your forearms on the floor making a “V” shape. Elbows remain shoulder width apart while you roll the upper arms slightly outward. Press the inner wrists firmly into the floor. Bend the upper body, bringing the top of your head to the floor. If you’re new to this pose, press the palms of the hands together and press your head against your interlaced fingers. More experienced yogis may keep the palms of the hands open and place the back of the head into the open palms.
2.     Coming into a downward dog-like pose with the hands clasped begin to walk your feet in closer to your head, actively lifting in the top thighs.
3.      Exhale to lift both feet up at the same time, even if it means hopping lightly off the floor. Firm the tailbone against the back of the pelvis, as your legs rise perpendicular to the floor. Turn the upper thighs slightly inward and actively press the heels towards the ceiling. The center arches of the feet should be stacked over the pelvis, which is stacked over the crown of the head. Press the shoulder blades against the back, widen them, and draw them toward the tailbone. Keep lifting the tailbone up toward the heels and evenly keeping the balance on the two forearms. THERE SHOULD BE NO UNCOMFORTABLE WEIGHT IN YOUR NECK!
4.     As a beginner to the pose, stay for about 10 seconds. More experienced yogis, may stay up for longer, challenging themselves by adding an extra 10 seconds each day. Use a yogi timer to keep track of your progress. Exhale to come down, without losing the lift in the shoulder blades and touching both feet down at the same time.
5.     Upon practicing headstand, stay in child’s pose for the same amount of time that you were up in the pose.

Body Points:
*tailbone lifting up towards the heels
*shoulder blades drop down the back and come together
*core coming in and up while squeezing thighs together

 Emphasized Body Parts: strengthens the spine, neck, shoulders, and arms. Abs and legs are toned.
-The reverse pull of gravity on the organs, helps to cleanse problems of the liver, kidneys, stomach, intestines, and reproductive system. Headstand increases gastric fire and produces heat in the body.

Mental Achievements: Headstand is known to some as the “king of all yoga asanas.” It helps to develop our masculine side and cultivates qualities of will power, sharpness of brain, and clarity of thought.
-Headstand ensures a proper blood supply and stimulates the pituitary glands in the brain, which are responsible for growth and sex hormones. Regular practice of sirsasana rejuvenates the brain cells through a pure blood flow. This makes thinking power increase and thoughts to become clearer.

An aid for beginners: kramas or levels of a pose give us yogis with various levels options. For any given pose, there are various levels of difficulty. This krama that I offer is for beginners to the pose:
- Mentally, headstand is a scary pose for many people since it literally turns your world upside down. So, make yourself feel supported: use a blanket or yoga mat under your arms and practice this pose up against a wall. You may begin simply feeling the shift of weight into the arms without lifting the legs. THAT’S GREAT! You’re a step closer to getting into your headstand. Then, practice lifting one leg up, making sure you alternate, lifting each leg for balance. You’ll know when you’re ready to try lifting both legs up and move away from the wall towards the center of the room.

Chakra: 7th chakra, Sahasrara symbolized by a violet color and the thousand-petaled lotus. This chakra is located above the crown of your head enhancing your ability to gain wisdom and connect with your higher purpose.
-7th chakra “seed sound” or bija mantra: silence. Practice silence in this 7th chakra pose and meditate your way to higher consciousness.  

Ancient Sanskirt Proverb: “Truth is my mother. Knowledge is my father. Dharma (the moral code of life) is my brother. Compassion is my sister. Peace is my wife. Forgiveness is my son. Six of them form my family. Blessed is a person who can have them for a family.”

Element: thought

*Women should avoid inversions if menstruating because it disturbs the natural flow and rhythm of the body and can leave one feeling shaky, disoriented, or nauseous

**Those with neck issues should not begin to practice headstand without the guidance of a yoga teacher present

***People suffering from high blood pressure, detached retina, glaucoma, hernias, cardiovascular disease, cervical spondylitis, thrombosis, arteriosclerosis, and kidney problems should not practice headstand.

Hours spent upside down leaving you hungry? Here is a delicious chocolate cake in honor of my dad’s birthday. And it just so happens to be vegan…Enjoy!  

Cake Ingredients: 1 ¼ cups of flour, 1 cup sugar, 1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder, 1 tsp baking soda, ½ tsp salt, 1 cup warm water, 1 tsp vanilla extract, 1/3 cup vegetable oil, 1 tsp distilled white or apple cider vinegar

Chocolate Glaze Ingredients: ½ cup sugar, 4 tbsp margarine, 2 tbsp soy milk, 2 tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder, 2 tsp vanilla extract
If you prefer your chocolate cake non-vegan, you can replace the margarine with butter and soy milk with regular milk. I know my papa would probably prefer it that way. ENJOY!

Happy Holidays!!!


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