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Enquiries Into Yogic Philosophy

Sirsasana – The King of Asanas

March 17, 2020

The weight of the body will be felt on the elbows and the position of the head may change.  The face will appear to be flushed and the eyes either strained or puffed.  It is therefore, advisable for a beginner to do the head stand in a corner where two walls meet, placing the head some 2 to 3 inches from either wall.(Light on Yoga, p 182)

The sirsasana is the king of the asanas.  It’s not hard to see why.  Sirsa means head, and this is the seat of the brain.  The brain controls the entire nervous system.  It is where your knowledge, intellect, wisdom and power come from.

It helps to:

  • Increase blood flow to the head.
  • Improve immunity by flushing the lymphatic system.
  • Improve digestion.
  • Relieve fatigue.
  • Improve insomnia.



Those who suffer from high or low blood pressure must never practice sirsasana.


Busting the Myths

Most practitioners think that balance is the only important aspect of sirsasana.  In reality, in this posture we have to keep our awareness on our body alignment at all times and continue to fix it moment by moment.  Read on for some practice pointers…

Practice Pointers

  • In the final position only an area the size of a rupee on top of your head should be in contact with the floor.
  • The head, the trunk, the back of the thighs and the heels should be in a straight line.  Avoid ‘banana-back’.
  • Do not widen the elbows thinking it will give you better balance. In reality this will make the pose weaker and lead to a neck injury.


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RIMYI Experiences

Prop or Crutch?

September 19, 2019
See the Sirsasana

This beautiful shot is part of the photos we took for ‘Beyond Asanas: The Myths and Legends Behind Yogic Postures”. Get your copy of the book on Amazon and Flipkart.

I had a 7 am class with Gulnaz Dashti today, my second with her this month.  I’ve recounted my hilarious class in 2016 with her here.  And last year here.  As evident in these blogs, she’s energetic, lively and funny.

Lately I’ve been having problems with the sirsasana.  It’s confounding.  I’ve been practicing sirsasana for years, even doing variations.  Here’s a video of me doing advanced variations too.  But suddenly one day I felt my neck starting to cramp up.  I hadn’t changed anything and I got a bit worried.

I decided that maybe I should change the way I use the blanket under my head.  Until now I was using a folded blanket between a folded mat.  I started to fold the blanket in the Iyengar “three fold long” style.  I felt it would give me height .  But that also didn’t feel right.  I spoke to Gulnaz about it last week.  “Is it possible for someone to do a pose for many years and all of a sudden to lose it one day?”

She said in her quick rapid style, “Until now you’ve learned how to do the sirsasana.  Now you’ll  understand the posture.  Go, I’ll see next week!”

So today before I went up I asked her for help.

“Why are you using a blanket?!” she screeched.  “You people become so used to the props!  Keep the blanket aside and go  close to the wall, I’ll adjust.”  She reached down and lifted my shoulders away from my ears.  I felt the weight shifting forward to my elbows.  My wrists and elbows woke up, and I pushed them firmly into the mat.    I teetered for a bit as I got familiar with the new center of gravity.

“Props were invented to teach you how to do a posture, not to become a crutch for you.  You people don’t even question the necessity of a prop!  You become so dependent on the prop that that’s all you see!  You don’t see the pose, you stop learning the pose!!!”

“Don’t be in a hurry to get away from the wall,” she cautioned me.  “Stay there and understand the pose.”

Got it Gulnaz – learn the pose with the props, and understand them without the crutches.

RIMYI Experiences

Finally some progress…

September 11, 2017


Our goals form the blue print for our lives.  As kids we think of  growing up and becoming so and so.  Once we become so and so our goals change to the kind of cars or houses we want.  The kind of person we want to be with.  More common goals are to lose 10 kgs before year end, learn how to swim, run a marathon, travel the world, complete a reading challenge.

My first ever goal in life was to be Nancy Drew when I grew up.  As I grew up I became more laid back and wanted to spend all my time reading and writing.  My only goal in life was to spend as much time as possible reading as many books as possible.  I also wanted to write books for a living.  I finally ended up writing code for a living and that period of my life is conspicuous by a total lack of goals to aspire to.  Everyone else wanted promotions, raises, onsite trips.  People were flaunting cars, homes and eligible marital prospects.  One day I realized that if I didn’t start working out I would have nothing to wear since I had steadily outgrown many things in my closet.  That led me to the gym and then to yoga class.

As with most yoga students my first goal was to touch my toes.  I remember that I was elated when I first did that.  Even more when I touched my forehead to my knee.  Today I cringe at how bad my form was then.  Lots of people want to do the headstand and handstand.  Studying at RIMYI has made a lot of my goals accessible to me (Kurmasana for one).

As an Intermediate 2 practitioner you are expected to be comfortable in many variations of sirsasana.  You’re upside down in all classes (unless you’re menstruating), so headbalancing is crucial for an Iyengar practitioner.  There are bound to be many who topple over or come down for a little break.  When this happens you hear everything from ‘Shouldn’t have had so many modaks’ to ‘You call yourself teachers!!!’ to ‘In Intermediate 2 for so long and still not able to sustain?!’  Usually accompanied by a barrage of Marathi.

When I was here last year I used to fantasize about holding the headstand for 10 minutes.  I knew that was a prerequisite for the next level.  I’d heard of classes where students have been upside down for 20 minutes at a stretch.  All of last month I’ve worked on steadily increasing the amount of time I stay up.  I started with 5 minutes and then held it for 8 minutes for a while.  Then this morning I decided to be a little more adventurous and see if I could hold on for 10 minutes.  And I did!!!

Needless to say, it felt amazing!!!  Achieving these goals only prove that with only a little bit of discipline and smart work you are closer to your goals than you think.  Even goals that are mere fantasies for you right now.



Aga Khan Palace


Enquiries Into Yogic Philosophy

The King of the Asanas

September 27, 2015

Whenever I teach the Sirsasana, I never forget to mention that it’s the King of Asanas.  And I go on to say something like, it’s the King ‘cuz it’s the grandest and most amazing pose.  And well, it’s really difficult too.  Until the other day when a student pointed out that that describes pretty much most advanced asanas.  Got me thinking, so I did some research.The reason the headstand is the King of the asanas is the role the head plays in the life and times of an individual.  The head defines a large part of who a person is.  The thoughts originate in the head.  Rational decisions come from the head.  The power of reason and discrimination lie in the head.  So much so that when a baby is born, it’s the head that comes out first.  Metaphorically, the head deals with the world before any other parts of the body.

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The skull and the brain are located in the head, and these control the nervous system of the body.  A healthy mind is essential for a healthy body.  The brain is responsible for intellect, knowledge, discrimination, wisdom and power.  According to ‘Light on Yoga’  just like a King controls the kingdom, the brain controls the body.  Therefore, the Headstand is the King of all the other asanas that the body can perform.

Regularly practicing this inversion stimulates circulation of blood to the brain cells, which helps in rejuvenation of the mind (and also helps in giving you that yoga glow).  This flush of fresh blood to the brain cells enables you to ‘see’ and think more clearly.  Quite literally, you see from a different perspective.  This pose is great for insomniacs because it gives the brain some respite from the stress and tension of life.  In the correct posture your torso is expanded, enabling you to breathe better and more deeply.  It’s great to increase your lung capacity.

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According to BKS Iyengar, regular practice of Sirsasana ensures that “One becomes balanced and self-reliant in pain and pleasure, loss and gain, shame and fame and defeat and victory.”

Yoga is a state of equanimity.    (Samatvam yoga ucchyate.) – Bhagvad-Gita.

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