Translated from sanskrit Salamba means 'supported' and 'Sirsa' means 'head,' thus a supported headstand.
Commonly referred by yogis as the 'King of all asanas,' practicing Salamba Sirsasana can literally turn your world upside down in more ways than just the physical. What makes this posture so special is the physical awareness it develops regarding balance and alignment, while cultivating heightened spiritual sensitivity and awareness.
The journey of coming into this posture requires patience and 'letting go', so a sequence of fundamental postures will go a long way in building a stable physical foundation. Take 'Tadasana' for example. This is a great place to start in understanding the actions of the legs, hips, core and head positioning while firmly rooting the feet to the ground. Compliment this with other standing postures to gain awareness, strength and flexibility.
The following is a method of practicing this posture using blocks that is beneficial to any yoga practitioner.
Come to a wall with a yoga mat. Using three blocks, place block 1 standing length-wise from the floor, block 2 and 3 sit width-wise on block 1 with the edges touching the wall. (See picture) Kneel to the floor and interlace your palms or fingers firmly together behind block 1 with the elbows shoulder distance apart and inner wrists pressing into the floor, outer arms slightly out. Bring the crown of the head to the floor and gently press the back of the head into block 1. Slowly, lift your knees off the floor with heels up and walk the feet towards the elbows. Keep the front of the body lengthened by lifting through the top thighs, firming the shoulder blades into the back and letting them slide towards the tailbone to keep the front torso long. This will prevent the shoulders from collapsing onto the neck. Exhale, bend both knees and lift both feet away from the floor until the knees are perpendicular to the floor and you feel the spine pressing firmly into the 3 blocks. Squeeze the inner thighs together, draw the navel into the spine and slowly lift the heels to the sky. If your legs are straight you should feel the centre of the feet arches aligned with the centre of the pelvis and the crown of the head. Your head should be completely off the ground in this variation, giving opportunity to fine tune body alignment and build strength and endurance.
Whether we practice this posture with feet on the ground, against a wall or free standing in the middle of a room, the physical and mental benefits are many. Physically, reversing gravity in this posture strengthens the neck, shoulders, arms and spine, tones the abdominals and legs, stimulates healthy breathing, improves posture and digestion and helps with proper functioning of the main organs. Mentally, it relaxes the mind, improves clarity, helps overcome fears, builds courage and patience just to name a few.
On a deeper level, standing on our feet contributes to the shaping of beliefs we hold. We are rooted to the earth with them, we stand and walk securely on them everyday. This comfortable security contributes to the illusion that says, 'this is how my world functions and their is no other way to live it.' We defend this belief and sometimes hide behind excuses when confronted with change that could otherwise lead to more life choices and personal growth.
We might encounter hesitation or feel frozen in movement when up-rooting the feet in salamba sirsasana, but when we leave the earth with the feet to the heavens something special happens.
We open ourselves to seeing life with heightened awareness and begin to see choices outside of our 'comfort zone'. With feet kissing the sky, we are nourished now from the abundance of the universe and the Divine. We develop more courage and confidence in confronting and eliminating emotions like fear.
With our feet on the ground, we sometimes still live with our heads in the clouds, but when we come into salamba sirsasana, the intellectual mind that roots us in our ideals and beliefs ceases and spiritual awareness deepens. When practicing salamba sirsasana, ask yourself afterwards, 'what was I feeling and thinking while in the posture?' Was I impatient or frustrated? Did I push into the posture? Then ask yourself what spawned that emotion.
We may come to realize that we are sometimes our own worst enemies and our best lovers.-- In practicing salamba sirsasana, we come face to face with our anxieties and fears and this builds courage to help us take responsibility for ourselves on and off the yoga mat. Slowly, we come to realize that WE are our own best teacher. Freedom and liberation are in OUR own hands and not in the hands of yoga itself.
Autor: Eric Bennewitz
compiled by Eric Bennewitz