Śīrṣāsana – aligned
In Śīrṣāsana (Headstand) one doesn’t see much of one’s body, only the elbows can be seen. Many of us have asymmetries in the arms, shoulders, and upper back, and this may cause our Śīrṣāsana to be misaligned. Sometimes the legs are tilting to the left or right, and sometimes the pelvis and legs are turned to the left or to the right. Usually, practitioners wouldn’t know whether their pose is skewed and even if the teacher points it out, they still tend to keep doing the pose wrong since it feels right to them. They think that their body is correctly aligned because they are so used to doing the pose incorrectly. Only by repeated practice of a straight and aligned Śīrṣāsana, can one overcome such a wrong and sometimes deeply rooted habit.
How does then one measure his or her pose in the setting of a home practice?
As B.K.S. Iyengar points out in Light on Yoga, one can check his or her alignment by doing the pose in front of a mirror. Here I show a different method, which may be more accessible to most practitioners who don’t have a large enough mirror extending all the way down to the floor. A wall corner is found in every house and can be used very effectively to correct the misalignments mentioned above.
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How to check your headstand is aligned using a wall corner?
- Placing the hands on the corner
Instead of interlocking your fingers, press your palms against the walls on both sides of the corner.
- Going up to the pose
Place your elbows shoulder-width apart on either side and go up to the pose.
- Using the corner
Position the middle of your occiput (the back of the skull), your tailbone, and the meeting point of your heels against the corner.
- Aligning with the corner
Keeping the back of your head and your heels on the vertical edge move your tailbone and your thoracic dorsal spine away from the corner. At the same time, move your lumbar spine towards the corner.
- Testing the alignment
After a while, move slightly away from the corner; stay from 30 to 60 seconds without touching the corner. Then slowly move back to touch the corner with your heels and tailbone. Check if both heels touch it concurrently and symmetrically. Observe how your buttocks are positioned relative to the corner.
- Internalizing the alignment
Experiment several times and see if you have a consistent tendency to tilt the body or to become crooked. Observe and then correct.
Repeat this practice, until you learn the correct alignment, such that when moving to touch the corner your heels and buttocks are placed symmetrically on either side of the corner.
- Sharpen and elongate your spine by bringing its left side to the right and its right side to the left.
- Still another way to align yourself is to do the pose facing a vertical column, a wall or a window edge. Observing such a vertical line can help you check the verticality of the pose.