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  • Writer's pictureAtsuko

From Fear to Freedom: Headstand As a Path to Inner Strength

Is headstand part of your practice? Have you tried it? Or do you think you will never achieve this?

In his book Light on Yoga, B.K.S. Iyengar describes headstand as "the king of asana." He says, "Regular practice of sirsasana (headstand) makes healthy, pure blood flow through the brain cells. This rejuvenates them so that thinking power increases and thoughts become clearer. This asana is a tonic for people whose brains tire quickly."

He lists the following conditions that improve with regular practice: sleep problems, memory issues, lack of energy, increased lung capacity, colds, coughs, tonsillitis, halitosis, palpitations, constipation, and improved haemoglobin content in the blood.

He concludes, "Regular and precise practice of sirsasana develops the body, disciplines the mind, and widens the horizons of the spirit. One becomes balanced and self-reliant in pain and pleasure, loss and gain, shame and fame, and defeat and victory."

Widens the horizons of the spirit!

Oh, I would so love that.

When I started learning the headstand, I was obsessed with it. Going up against the wall was relatively easy to achieve, but moving away from the wall was difficult. It wasn’t just the physical strength and the technique but also the fear and confidence. As I mentioned in previous blogs, I grew up with little physical confidence, so it was quite a challenge.

Eventually, I had to learn that it is not a big deal if I fall. I learned what to do if I lost balance, i.e., how to fall. And I did fall a few times while learning.

Many years later, I taught yoga classes to a bunch of elite swimmers aged 8-16 at the local swimming club. As they were super fit but slightly cocky kids, I taught them headstand, and they listened, tried, and loved it! It was amazing to see how little fear these sporty young kids had.

After I learned to do headstand in the middle of the room, it was still a long time before I could stand confidently for a duration of time. When I asked my yoga buddy for advice, he just said, "Daily practice." And that’s what I did. A few weeks of daily practice sorted my headstand.

So, why should you do headstand?

You don’t have to! It is not necessary at all. When I was doing teacher training, one of my fellow trainees confessed she couldn’t stand on her head. It is not a yardstick to measure how "good" or accomplished you are as a yogi.

Apart from the health benefits listed, for me, the biggest reward was my confidence. I was a sickly child and didn’t have much physical confidence. I adopted the persona of a clever kid who was always reading and couldn’t do any sports. As a young adult, I was the arty, cultural person who had no interest in sports and the great outdoors.

And here I was! I could do a pretty decent, solid, and beautiful headstand, and hold it for a few minutes. I could even do some showy variations from headstand, almost like tricks!

Ego boosting? Perhaps you could say that. But for me, it was life-changing. I could throw away the old persona of a non-sporty girl who liked to spend weekends in dark cinemas, and become someone who is always in leggings, happily dancing and moving about. I found my physical confidence and physical freedom.

Headstand is not as hard as it might look. You just need to learn the correct technique and practice persistently. Isn’t it wonderful that you can achieve something seemingly impossible in a relatively short period?

This is why I love teaching headstand!

Feel free to share.

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