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Sirsasana – Headstand Yoga Pose

Sirsasana - Headstand Yoga PoseSivananda Yoga calls the headstand a ‘cure for all diseases’.  It is claimed that the headstanding posture benefits the endocrine glands and the digestive system.

It helps to pump blood quickly to the heart and improves the flow of fluids through the lymphatic system channels, helping the body to absorb nutrients and eliminate waste more effectively. However, we are not aware of any actual scientific evidence for this.

There are also risks to damage to the neck and eyes (including loss of vision) when performing this posture and it is recommended that modifications are used, such as using blocks to support the shoulders, and that it is not performed by those over 50 years.  See references below.

When performing a headstand the crown of the head should be on the floor supported by your hands interlocked behind your head. There should be no discomfort on the neck. If you feel any pain on the neck come out of the posture immediately.

Your elbows should be at about 80 degrees angle. Concentrate on your breathing and focus on the solar plexus for balance.

Keep the pressure away from the head supporting the body weight mainly with the forearms. Hold this posture for about 3 to 5 minutes to obtain maximum benefit. To come out drop the legs down gradually and rest in the child pose for at least 10 seconds.


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The Dolphin posture push up is a good way to strengthen the arms in preparation for the headstand.

The headstand is a good way to finish your yoga practice, followed by the lotus posture.

The headstand is contraindicated for people suffering from high blood pressure, glaucoma and other eye problems, neck pain, excess weight and osteoporosis.

See our Step-by-Step Instructions on How to do the Headstand for a complete guide on how to do the headstand yoga posture.

Hatha Yoga Postures: Sanskrit – English

Headstands and health – some research

Even though the yogi masters were sure of its health benefits, the scientific community is less keen. Some research has shown that prolonged periods in the posture is bad for the eyes and others have recognized the strain on the neck, especially when entering and leaving the posture.

Progression of glaucoma associated with the Sirsasana (headstand) yoga posture” by MJ Gallardo (and others) 2006. Advances in Therapy.

Sirsasana (headstand) technique alters head/neck loading : considerations for safety” by Rachel Elizabeth Hector, 2012.


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“… modifying headstand technique may reduce some of the mechanical risks of headstand.” Rachel Hector.

Central retinal vein occlusion following Sirsasana (headstand posture)” by Nikunj J Shah and Urmi N Shah, Indian J Ophthalmol. 2009 Jan-Feb; 57(1): 69–70.

“Instructors suggest avoiding Sirsasana in patients with hypertension, congestive heart failure, berry aneurysms, and those above 50 years of age.”

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  50 comments for “Sirsasana – Headstand Yoga Pose

  1. hanif hilal
    June 27, 2009 at 5:44 pm

    Hello,
    I am regual practitioner of the ‘ sirsasana’.
    I do it practically everyday.. and i follow it up with a couple of breathing techniques.
    My question is that i dont hold it for 5 mins..
    i land up holding it for about 25 mins to sometimes a maximum of 35mins.
    Is it good for my body and for my neck as well?
    i dont feel any pain once i am back in normal position but while i am holding it my neck does start to hurt a bit..
    PLEASE DO REVERT as it would only help be better my knowledge.
    Warm Regards,
    Hanif :)

  2. YogaMums
    June 27, 2009 at 11:06 pm

    Hello Hanif,
    If your neck is hurting, then you need to review your posture. You should ensure that your arms are actually supporting most of your weight, and that the crown of your head is touching the floor, to ensure proper alignment. It is likely that the discomfort is a combination of poor alignment and too much pressure on the spine (neck).

    If possible, find a experienced practitioner to check your posture. If the pain continues, then you really should consider shortening the time, or stopping altogether. The health benefits of sirasana are not worth the risk of developing long term neck problems.

    If you can hold your body weight on your lower arms, you could do the Scorpion pose instead. Which is similar to the Headstand, but the head does not touch the floor, so there is no pressure on the neck. The elbow alignment is the same as in the Headstand, but the lower arms are perpendicular to the wall. With just the lower arms on the floor you raise the body up in the same way as in the Headstand. You can keep the body upside down on a straight line with the head facing the floor or you can bend the feet down towards the head creating a backbend, the knees separate, but the toes are kept together. If you do the full posture you can use a wall for balance when you bring the feet down towards the head. You will need a bigger gap to allow space to curve the legs down. If you feel any discomfort, then come out of the posture.

  3. hanif
    June 30, 2009 at 7:09 pm

    Thank you so very much for your prompt reply. Well my neck does hurt but its not unbearable, but I will sure consult a yoga teacher and get my posture sorted… thanks once again..

    also I would like to know where is your school based? warm regards.

  4. Adriano
    August 17, 2009 at 4:14 am

    I’m 50 year old male who is just beginning practicing the headstand. I use a headstand chair which allows me to do the headstand with no pressure on my head or neck. I’ve read about the many benefits but am unclear about how long to practice the headstand. It seems like a mere 5 or 10 minutes would have little benefit. I read how early writings by yogis have said that 3 hours a day would have great benefits. Of course one would have to work up to that amount of time I’m sure. Finally, does the headstand hold a risk of glaucoma? I found one article, a study of one woman who developed glaucoma. She practiced the headstand for several years. But I havn’t heard of this happening to anyone else. Any advise appreciated.

  5. YogaMums
    August 17, 2009 at 12:53 pm

    Adriano, the best suggestion is to take it easy to start with, and listen to your body. Do not expect to match what the ancient yogis accomplished in a hurry! As for the glaucoma, one instance is not enough to be worried about. By all means check it out with your optician first though.

  6. YogaMums
    August 17, 2009 at 2:17 pm

    There are just different ways to practice yoga. Ashtanga is a very energetic way, with sequences of postures performed repeatedly. These forms provide a great physical workout. Taking more time on a few postures helps to increase the internal health and mental benefits more so.

  7. Adriano
    August 17, 2009 at 1:57 pm

    Thanks very much for the great advise! Could I ask if it is good to practice both the shoulder stand and headstand? I was reading they are called the queen and king of yoga postures and that they have different benefits. I do the headstand now for about 10 minutes 2x a day now and I have felt more alert and clear and more energetic.
    My other question is that I’ve noticed there are very many postures and that most people try to practice as many as they can and at a much faster pace like on the yoga shows on tv. So they don’t practice one or two for long periods and almost seem like they are hurrying in their practice. I was wondering about this and if it might be better to practice one or two poses mainly and try to master them and get their deeper benefits? Thanks very much for the help!

  8. Suresh
    November 15, 2009 at 5:42 pm

    I am 23 yrs old. I do sirsasasna for 45 minute in the morning. please tell me maximum time to hold the pose. If i do like this regularly. Is there any harm to me holding a posture. sir i had read in shivananda yoga book. If a person hold this pose for 2 or 3 hours. he will get maximum benifits from this.

  9. YogaMums
    November 15, 2009 at 7:53 pm

    Hi Suresh, the recommendation for Sirasana is to hold for at least 24 breaths, and hold for as long as it is comfortable thereafter. If it is comfortable and you are not experiencing and pain during or after then you can hold for as long as you like.

  10. YogaMums
    November 15, 2009 at 8:03 pm

    Hi Suresh,

    If you are ok with this posture you can hold it for as long as you can without discomfort.

  11. Adriano
    November 16, 2009 at 11:39 am

    Hi Suresh, Its been a little over 3 months since I started practicing Sirasana. I’m up to about an hour a day and have enjoyed more benefits the longer I practice each day. I concentrate on this pose because I am unable to do many of the other poses because of physical limitations. If I could, I would certainly devote time to all the other poses, sequences, etc. Wish you success in your practice!
    Adriano

  12. Suresh
    November 17, 2009 at 4:59 pm

    thank you, adriano told me that there is no harm for holding this posture. you know what i m thinking that i will increase the time of holding posture till i reach to 2 hours.sir one thing I have to ask that possiblity to do other asna after sirsasna become less when we do this. posture becoz this postue require more time to give resting the body equal the same time of holding the posture.

  13. Christine
    December 12, 2009 at 9:05 pm

    I have glaucoma, and wondered if Downdog would increase eye pressure? I know that Sirsasana and other head stands increase pressure and I have stopped those. Just wondered about Down Dog??
    Thank you

  14. Gina
    December 13, 2009 at 1:28 pm

    Hi there
    I have recently started to do the headstand every day for about 10 minutes. I usuall do my yoga practice about 4.30 every afternoon. This seems the best time for me as I live self sufficiently on a scottish mountain. The rest of the day is tied up with living!!
    What I have noticed since increasing the time an frequency of the headstand is that I cant seem to sleep. I am wide awake like I have drunk tonnes of coffee. Is this because of the headstand and the alertness that it brings and should I try to do it in the morning somehow? I wondered if this is a known occurance with this posture or is it all just a coincidence. Thanks, best wishes Gina

  15. pavan
    February 26, 2010 at 8:29 am

    do sirsasana help with losing weight ?

  16. YogaMums
    March 9, 2010 at 9:20 pm

    On its own, no, but as part of a healthy lifestyle, with good diet and regular exercise, yoga is a great way to manage weight.

  17. naeem
    June 7, 2011 at 6:04 pm

    please send regularly e mails regarding yoga. thanks

  18. Yoga Mums
    June 14, 2011 at 9:34 am

    All updates will appear on this site.

  19. Robin
    September 11, 2011 at 8:09 am

    Dear Sir/madam,

    I have been doing sirsasana since one month. But I used to do when I was 18 years old around 20 years ago. now I am forty plus and doing sirsasana to cure sinus. Is it possible to cure sinus by doing sirsasana 10 minutes two times for a year ?

    Thank you,

    Rajendra

  20. Jon
    October 25, 2011 at 8:57 pm

    Sorry Robin, we do not know about that.

  21. dhana
    November 13, 2011 at 8:07 am

    Ps advise deep breathing is good during Sirsasana atleast 10 min daily in the early morning.

  22. dhana
    November 13, 2011 at 8:19 am

    Is it advisable to Continue to Sun salutation when my knee is swelling.

  23. Yoga Mums
    December 6, 2011 at 11:01 am

    Best to rest your knee, determine why it is swelling if possible.

  24. Yoga Mums
    December 6, 2011 at 11:02 am

    Deep but relaxed breathing is good.

  25. Michaelle Edwards
    January 15, 2012 at 9:50 am

    Standing on the head is russian roulette for the neck spine. Better to stand on your hands or do a forward bend with bent knees. So many people have bone spurs, reversed curve in the neck and even overgrowth of the neck which narrows the nerve outlets.. Get a sling and hang upside down but dont stand on your head with any weight on it at all EVER. I have been doing yoga 40 years and teaching for 20 and I have seen so many injuries from headstands. Also I am a professional bodyworker for more than 20 years and I teach anatomy, and I run a yoga school too. . The neck spine is not designed to hold any weight on it. Even having forward head carriage and poor posture puts a huge amount of pressure on the spine but headstands make no anatomical sense. It may not hurt now but there will be long term problems with the neck in most.. Most gyms and fitness centers do not allow headstands anymore because the insurance companies request no headstands allowed.
    aloha from Kauai and Michaelle at http://www.yogalign.com

  26. himanshu
    January 31, 2012 at 1:43 pm

    does sirsasana helps in reducing hair fall…and i have just started practsing it…so i cant hold 4 more then 10 min…so is it good to practices in short intervals…

  27. Jon
    March 15, 2012 at 11:42 pm

    No, no evidence to suggest it will help with hair loss.

  28. Naveen
    March 24, 2012 at 9:19 am

    Hi.I am 26 years old.I have started doing this asana from 1 month .
    i)I am not able to withstand for more than 5 mins .Could you please guide me in improving the time ?
    ii)In last 2 years i had hair fall and i have lost bit of hair on the fore head.For how long should i continue this asana to notice a hair growth and the everyday time that needs to be spent ?

  29. prabhakaran
    April 26, 2012 at 7:36 pm

    I am Prabhakaran
    I too do this aasana for 7 minutes
    but how to get inner peace and linking with my subconsious mind by doing this
    To acheive that give any alternate way for getting Inner peace
    Please regard me…..

  30. Yoga Mums
    April 26, 2012 at 7:45 pm

    Hi Prabhakaran, this is something that goes beyond what we can teach via YogaMums. I hope you do manage to find inner peace in the future though. Good luck!

  31. Yoga Mums
    April 26, 2012 at 7:48 pm

    Hi Naveen, we do not believe that this yoga asana can help your hair grow back again. This is a somewhat dangerous asana to perfect so it would be wise for you to seek a yogi near where you live for personal training.

  32. Ashish
    January 18, 2013 at 7:15 pm

    Hi,
    One Yoga guru warm me don’t do sirsasana, he said it effect’s to brain cells and eyes. He advice me to do Halasana instead of sirsasana.Is it correct? waiting for your reply.

  33. Jon
    April 17, 2013 at 8:49 pm

    They do have their risks yes. You should be physically fit and strong before attempting this posture. Also if you have had any medical conditions, especially of the spine, neck, shoulders or eyes, do not do it. If concerned, do not do it.

  34. Shiv
    April 27, 2013 at 11:33 am

    Hi,
    I have always had irregular periods, though I have been a very fit person when I was younger. I used to do the headstand using the wall (from ages 16-24 I have been very fit).

    Then I became slack. At 28 I had my first baby. And now, at 30, I have been diagnosed with Pcos.

    Is it okay for me to to the headstand if I suffer from pcos? Thanks.

  35. Jon
    April 27, 2013 at 12:14 pm

    You should ask your doctor really Shiv.

  36. Wanwaree
    May 16, 2013 at 8:00 pm

    Hi , thanks for the useful info about headstand.
    I just started practicing
    I’m not sure if its effect my sleeping.
    I noticed since the first day I was able to lift my legs up
    I didn’t hold for long only about 5-8 seconds
    The next day I woke up at 4 am
    And on the next day morning I tried again another I woke up at 3am
    Both time I did in the morning.
    And I went to bed on both night around 10++ pm
    I don’t know why I woke up too early and I feel so tired.
    Does headstand pose has an effect with sleeping time?

    I had this problem before but it had been ok for sometime until I started headstand 2 days ago.
    Could you please suggest?
    I hope to improve my sleeping problem ;(

  37. Jon
    May 16, 2013 at 8:21 pm

    It is possible, but not something that we are experienced with. Stop doing it and see if sleep returns to normal. If it does, try again, and if sleep becomes irregular again, it would seem that is indeed the problem.

  38. nilesh
    May 17, 2013 at 5:21 pm

    hi..
    thanks for information..
    I have specs… can Sirsasan help me or it worsen the same as you mentined that sirsasan is not good for eye problem.

    Awaiting for your reply…

  39. Jon
    May 17, 2013 at 5:48 pm

    Hi Nilesh, it will not improve your sight.

  40. Neeraj
    June 24, 2013 at 1:59 pm

    my eyes gets too red is there any problem ?

  41. Jon
    June 24, 2013 at 2:09 pm

    Sounds like it. When are they getting too red? Does it pass?

  42. Neeraj
    June 27, 2013 at 7:14 am

    after doing this yoga about 30-60 sec they gets red and remain red for about 2 hours….is their are any problem ?

  43. Jon
    June 27, 2013 at 8:22 am

    It is probably best to stop doing this posture. When inverted blood rushes to your head and increased blood pressure could result in blood vessels rupturing in the eyes. It is not actually uncommon and the best advice for those who suffer in this way is to stop standing on your head.

  44. Neeraj
    June 27, 2013 at 11:20 pm

    OK thnkss someone said to be this yoga is good for celibacy….. can you suggest me some good yoga for celibacy….that can stop wet dream…. and passion.

  45. Jon
    July 11, 2013 at 1:17 pm

    Um, sorry, not aware of such a thing.

  46. Firdaus
    March 16, 2014 at 11:27 am

    Hi,
    Several websites reveal that people with eye problems should avoid doing headstand. However, I can’t find reasons for such a statement. I am a myopic. I wear glasses. Please tell if the statement is true and if yes, then how does headstand affects a myopic? Will appreciate your response. Thank you!

  47. MotleyHealth
    March 17, 2014 at 9:01 pm

    Hi Firdaus, research into yoga headstands has indicated a risk of damage to the eyes. See “Progression of glaucoma associated with the Sirsasana (headstand) yoga posture” by Mark J. Gallardo MD, which states: “Transient increases in IOP associated with the yoga headstand posture may lead to progressive glaucomatous optic nerve damage and visual field loss.”

  48. Adrian
    May 28, 2014 at 6:09 am

    Actually the saying about curing all diseases is that 3 hours of headstand a day will cure all disease. 5 minutes is not long enough to do hardly any good. One must work one’s way up to at least 30 minutes a day to really see true benefits.

  49. MotleyHealth
    May 28, 2014 at 8:50 am

    There is not really any medical evidence that standing on your head will not cure any diseases. In fact, some research suggests that it is bad for long-term health. Always be careful.

  50. paramjeet
    September 10, 2014 at 7:49 pm

    Neeraj…do not put the weight on ur head or neck while perforfiming it…put ur all or 90% of weight on ur shoulder…

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