Standing upside down is said to realign the internal organs, bring a rush of blood to the brain and increase concentration. But that’s not all.

Yogi Masters acknowledge that gravity and time must take its toll on the body, but they also say, “He who practices the headstand daily conquers time”. Aside from stress, worry and free radicals gravity too can be reprimanded for ageing the body. Some time ago I remember asking an impressive 72 year-old man if I could interview him about his life. He always seemed to be in high spirits and above the setbacks of life. “Come with me”, he said, “and I will show you why”. Halfway through a jogging session in a pine forest just when I was wondering what I had let myself in for he stopped at a clearing and proceeded to stand on his head.  “For three minutes of every day for the past 40 years, I have taken time out to stand on my head”. He firmly believed his unusual daily practice cleared his head, rejuvenated his internal organs and increased his circulation keeping him young. “My body is enriched by the deep breathing required and nutrients are sent to the brain, through the spine and to the nervous system.”

Since that time a daily headstand has always featured somewhere on my aspirational ‘to do’ list. Coming across the yogic perspective has me all the more convinced.

BKS Iyengar, author of Light on Yoga (Aquarian) cites the headstand as the king of all postures.

Other advocates believe if there is only one thing you are going to do, make sure it is the headstand. Iyengar explains that regular practice stimulates healthy blood flow through the brain cells. Cells are rejuvenated, thoughts are made clearer and thinking power is increased. “The headstand is a tonic for people whose brains tire quickly. It ensures proper blood supply to the pituitary and pineal glands in the brain when our growth, health and vitality depend on the proper functioning of these two glands.” Bad posture and slouching on couches and chairs shifts our internal organs out of alignment. There aren’t many exercises offering an opportunity to move them back into place. When upside down gravity is removed and the organs reposition themselves naturally. The Sivananda Yoga Vedanta Centre believes the upside down position gives the heart a well deserved rest as gravity helps to return blood to the heart. Listed among many of the mental benefits is an increase in memory, concentration and intellectual capacity. In fact, it widens the horizons of the spirit and enhances all the sensory faculties. Varicose veins are relieved, the body is warmed and regular practice apparently shows a marked improvement in the haemoglobin content of the blood.

Getting into a headstand requires some initial caution and until mastered should be done under supervision of a yoga teacher or at the very least, carefully and against a wall. In a kneeling position with forearms and elbows rested on the floor, put the hands together with fingers interlocked and elbows spaced no wider than shoulders. Resting the crown of the head on the floor make sure the back of the head touches the palms. Slowly walk the feet towards the body, move the knees towards the face then raise the knees from the floor and lift them up. When balanced and spine is straight, straighten the legs by stretching up. Keep the body perpendicular to the floor. To come down first bend the knees then lower the feet to the floor.
In the words of Yoga Tatwa Upanishad: A steady and balanced posture produces mental equilibrium and prevents fickleness of mind. Just as a country can’t prosper without a strong leader or head, so the body cannot prosper without a healthy brain.

Tip: Find a great yoga class in Cape Town to deepen your daily practice.


Victoria's picture

Headstand safety

Loved this article! Just make sure you focus on safety in headstand first so you don't compress the vertebrae. This means never jump into headstand and always make sure you have 80% of the weight resting on your forearms and only 20% on your head. If you can't use the strength of your arms to ever so slightly lift your head away from the floor, then it's time to come down. Build it up slowly, protect the neck and enjoy the lifelong benefits.

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