Wednesday, 23 April 2014

The King of yoga poses

Recently, a few students have asked about the health benefits of headstand…

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Headstand belongs in a group of poses called inversions.  An inversion is any pose where the head is below the heart. 

Inversions reverse the action of gravity on the body; instead of everything being pulled towards the feet, the orientation shifts towards the head. Similarly, on the emotional and psychic levels, inverted asanas turn everything upside down, throwing a new light on old patterns of behaviour and being.

In general, inversions can be a bit daunting at first. Turning upside down for any period of time can feel strange and be physically challenging, but there are incredible benefits. In fact, headstand is called the king of all yoga poses because of the numerous benefits attributed to it.
1. Relieves Stress
Headstand helps you to draw your attention inwards. This posture is extremely helpful if you suffer from anxiety, stress, fear or otherwise worrisome thoughts. Combine headstand with long, slow breathing and you have a recipe for stress relief.
2. Increases Focus
When you turn upside down, you are increasing the blood flow to your brain. This can improve mental function, increase your concentration span, sharpen memory and enhance clarity of thought.
3. Strengthened Immune System
The lymphatic system is a closed pressure system and has one-way valves that keep lymph moving towards the heart, when one turns upside down, the entire lymphatic system is stimulated, thus strengthening your immune system.
4. Increases Blood Flow To The Head And Scalp
You can help your body deliver extra nutrients and oxygen to your head and scalp, thereby improving nutrient delivery to your hair follicles.
5. Strengthens Upper Body
While you are holding yourself up in headstand, you should be pushing down into the ground with your forearms, utilising the strength of your arms, shoulders and back. This is an awesome posture for improving upper body strength and muscular endurance.
6. Improves Digestion
When you allow the effects of gravity to be reversed on your digestive organs, you will help to move stuck material, release trapped gases, as well as improve blood flow to the all important digestive organs — increasing nutrient absorption and delivery to your cells.
7. Decreases Fluid Build-Up In The Legs, Ankles, And Feet
Edema in the legs is no fun, and it can happen if you tend to spend long hours on your feet. Reversing the effects of gravity on your bodily fluids will help to flush out built up water in the legs, relieving the uncomfortable feeling of edema & reducing likelihood of varicose veins.
8. Develops Strength In The Core Muscles
Headstands strengthen deep core muscles. To hold a well-aligned headstand for an extended period of time, the practitioner must engage the obliques, the rectus abdominus and the transverse abdominus. Having a strong core makes you more durable and less prone to injury during exercise and life in general.
9. Efficient Removal Of Toxins
The lymphatic system is responsible for waste removal, fluid balance, and immune system response (think rubbish dump system). This network of nodes and fluids help to remove waste products from your blood. When you flip onto your head you will be directly stimulating your lymphatic system and thereby helping to remove toxins from your body.

10. Reduces likelihood of stroke
Reduce your chances of having an ischemic stroke, as scientific evidence shows that this type of stroke rarely occurs in individuals who regularly practise headstand. Veins return blood to the heart and, unlike arteries, make up a low-pressure system that depends on muscular movement or gravity to move blood along. One-way valves at regular intervals prevent backwash and keep fluids moving towards the heart in a system know as venous return. Turning yourself upside down encourages venous return. Inverting also gives the heart a break. The heart works persistently to ensure that freshly oxygenated blood makes its way up to the brain and its sensory organs. When inverting, the pressure differential across the body is reversed, and blood floods to the brain with little work from the heart.

Headstand is definitely not a pose I would recommend you get into on your first day of practicing yoga. But, once safely introduced by your teacher, I do highly recommend you keep at it because it’s a great posture with tons of benefits!

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