Headstand or Sirasana is a much photographed pose, and it’s one of the questions that comes up often when students enquire about attending my Yoga Teacher Training. I make a joke that one of the best things about being a teacher is you only teach what you can do! -But seriously, the ability to do a headstand is not a course requirement.
I’ve done many a headstand. Often unsupervised (as a child I’d watch TV upside down) as well as ‘supervised’ to varying degrees of success. Supervision in some classes was in the form of encouragement, and with the best of intentions I'd get helped into a headstand before I was ready or really understood the pose.
As teachers we’ve learned the contraindications of a pose, as well as it’s benefits. But we rarely explain the potential harm done if a pose (like headstand) is performed badly. Stiff neck, headache, tense shoulders and a feeling of failure.
My relationship with Sirasana turned on its head when I got out of the very thing I was trying to balance on. I observed my pursuit of the headstand was ego. I didn’t feel enough as a teacher, assumed students expected a headstand from me, and that was my motivation for attempting to master the ‘king of asana.’
This does not make for a good Yoga teacher. I learned I was feeling motivated to perform, not to serve. The head on which I was seeing to stand on was in fact the last place I needed to put more focus. I needed to be lead to my heart felt desire to help students, not to perform.
Now, on the rare occasion I teach headstand its to a class of students I know well, they have a maturity in their practice which means they won’t explore headstand if it’s not suitable for them. It’s not ok say ‘if it’s in your practice.’ It sounds to me like a get out of jail free card. I’ve been in plenty of classes where we’ve been given that opportunity and about a dozen students tried headstand when it was certainly not in their practice.
When I teach headstand, I explain the benefits I’ve experienced from training for it; like patience that can only arise when you check your ego and an increase in confidence; I know I can create a strong and challenging class, without headstand.
Patience and understanding is a powerful lesson to impart. It increases resilience and maturity of the practitioner.
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Photo by HPinkness.
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Thank you, Rosie Pose x