After a great evening of wining and dining with friends at the Gaslight in the South End of Boston (fantastic food…and there’s free parking!) the other night, I came home to find that my beloved 2 1/2 year old weathered Macbook was not responding to me, or anything! Silent freak-out ensued and my whole technological addiction was revealed in the following 5 minutes.
I have admittedly developed a strong attachment to many many physical and material things in my life, and my computer is definitely one of them. It has been my little buddy through trips all over the world and through stressful all-nighters at college. She never let me down.
But after a few minutes of freaking-out and wondering if the Apple store would fix it with an expired warantee, I said to myself, “Okay, Alex, get a grip…and some perspective…its a computer“.
We all have our inner voices and urges challenging our nervous systems, claiming things in life are more important than they are, or that challenges and problems are too difficult to overcome.
Especially in these times when we don’t know what’s around the corner, and small things, like paying the rent on time, or trying to keep a job, seem insurmountable compared to last year.
That’s why I chose Headstand this week.
This particular headstand is part of B.K.S. Iyengar’s Sirsasana Cycle and is Salamba Sirsasana II Five.
Ancient texts call sirsasana the “king of all asanas”. According to Iyengar’s book “Light on Yoga”, a healthy brain is the key to a healthy ruler of a country, or just a person in general. The brain was the first part of the body to emerge in this world and is the center of all “intelligence, knowledge, discrimination, wisdom, and power”.
Harmony, mobility and discrimination of emotions and reactions are governed by your brain. Practicing this inversion will help blood flow from the regions below your diaphragm to your brain to increase energy and clarity. The pituitary and pineal glands gain more blood which helps with our vitality and energy and it keeps the body warm!
This pose calms the mind and helps relieve stress and mild depression. It also helps to strengthen the arms, legs, and spine, lungs, abs, digestion, relieves menopausal symptoms, and helps with asthma, infertility, insomnia and sinusitis.
The best part of this pose is that the world turns upside down in just a few seconds. We become self-reliant and balanced in our victories and losses, pains and pleasures, because we can see the horizon in a different way. Things that once seemed overwhelming, frustrating or problematic, suddenly do not seem as dire. My computer, for example, becomes just a machine, or that flat tire becomes a thing of the past.
Inversions also help us conquer fear. The pose itself is a bit of an ego boost as we support our entire body weight on a place we don’t usually carry anything. Suddenly the things around us do not seem familiar, but we feel larger than them. We feel if we can conquer this pose, we can conquer anything.
Along with this, there is another Sirsansana in which the forearms (not the hands) are on the ground. This pose is a bit harder to balance and ascend to, but it is incredibly freeing. There is nothing separating your head from your view. For this post I choose to share the second one in Iyengar’s sequence because it helps strengthen your arms and is good for people just starting out. It’s also easier and more fun to play around with your legs once you get up there!
I used to study voice lessons (operatic style) until a few years ago. When I first began, I always viewed the notes in my range as incremental, increasing to heights I wouldn’t dare to reach. When I would go for an extremely high note, my vocal chords would tighten and of course I couldn’t get the note out properly. Finally my teacher literally threw a book at me. It was called “A Soprano on her Head” by Eloise Ristad and it changed the way I sang. For a few weeks straight I would start off new pieces, or challenging sections of pieces, by going into a handstand against the wall and singing it upside down. Suddenly, I couldn’t tell which way was up, which way would I would have to reach for a high note, and all of the notes came freely out of my relaxed vocal chords. Amazing! Instead of the high notes appearing as insurmountable mountains, they flowed through my mouth with ease. If you are interested in reading the book….click here…
Note: women who are pregnant, menstruating or anyone with high blood pressure should not try this pose, or do it only accompanied by a yoga instructor. Also, do not stay in this pose for longer than 5 minutes, and do not start off your yoga practice with this pose. If you have neck/back injuries, the same applies. Always try a pose like this with a knowledgeable yoga teacher first!
For more info on this pose, read B.K.S. Iyengar’s “Light on Yoga” or click here for some basic info.