The 3 Most Important Yoga Positions for Health & Wellbeing - Part 2
In part 1, I began to introduce you to the vast amount of physical, mental and spiritual benefits that some of the most important asanas (yoga postures) provide. The original hatha yoga system was designed to support optimal health and wellbeing from a very scientific approach. By taking the time to understand what each asana is meant to achieve, you are able to design your own yoga sequence that addresses your specific objectives. Even for those who attend classes, you’ll be better equipped to get the most value from your practice by knowing where to focus your intention, utilizing both your mind and breathing, for each posture.
The first most important asana, paschimottanasana (the seated forward bend), was explained in detail in part one. The remaining 2 will be explained here, 2) sarvangasana (the shoulder stand), and 3) sirsasana (the headstand).
The shoulder stand has possibly more healing benefits than any other asana in the yoga system. The literal translation of this asana would be "the pose of the entire body". Inverted poses in general provide an abundance of rejuvenating effects. There is a very special flow of energy that occurs when the body is inverted to receive the negative electrons from the earth through the top of the body/head and the positive electrons from the atmosphere through the legs and feet, the opposite of what normally occurs. This produces many unexplainable health effects that make inverted poses so powerful.
The legs are raised slowly from the ground while lying on a flat back until they are straight above you, while your neck and shoulders remain on the ground. Your hands rest on your back to "prop" your body upwards and support the very straight, vertical position of your body. If you have any acute neck, head or heart conditions, you should not partake in this asana without consulting a medical professional.
While performing this asana, focus on the throat chakra (also called visuddha chakra). You may also notice excess sexual energy in the lower chakras moving towards the upper chakras, a process called sublimation practiced in tantric yoga.
Benefits - Thyroid, Anti-Aging, Reproductive Organs, Digestion, Respiration, Spine, Mental Wellbeing, Detoxification, Immune System, Weight Loss
A healing posture for most common ailments, one of the biggest benefits of the shoulder stand is its ability to regulate and normalize thyroid function. Since the thyroid is related to youth, it also has many anti-aging benefits and is able to rejuvenate a weakening body. It’s also helpful for problems associated with the reproductive organs such as uterine pain, ovarian complications, menstrual problems/irregularity, prostate, sexual function, STDs and bladder disease. It has healing potential for most chronic gastrointestinal disorders, can increase gastric fire and prevent appendicitis. It’s great for asthma, bronchitis, nose/ear/throat ailments, bronchitis, headaches and the common cold. It strengthens the back and corrects spinal curvatures. After practicing the shoulder stand, many people also notice a change in their mental wellbeing including increased self-confidence, happiness, and calmness. It acts as a blood purifier, neutralizes toxins and removes bad odors. People also practice this posture to improve their immunity and even lose weight. These are just a few of its numerous benefits.
Known as the king of all asanas (one step beyond sarvangasana, the queen of all asanas), it offers the most precise and perfect energizing of the body by drawing in energy through the lower limbs and moving them to the crown chakra.
Unlike most of the other postures, the headstand really can’t be learned from a book. One should consult a qualified yoga instructor to correctly learn the position in order to avoid harmful consequences. In short, the practitioner creates a triangular base of support, placing the elbows one forearm apart and then creating a space for the head with the fingers interlocked. The next step is to put your head on the floor with the intention of placing your weight at the point of the hairline, not the scalp itself (very important). Then you must walk your feet closely to your head before slowly lifting your legs upwards into the very straight vertical position the asana requires. Again, this is not a posture to be learned alone, nor is it appropriate for beginners. Take the necessary time to learn the form correctly.
The focus here is on the movement of cosmic energy through the body from the legs to the top of the head and above. You will likely notice a shift in conscious awareness and sensory perception.
Benefits - Entire Physical, Mental and Spiritual Being
The only way to describe the benefits of the headstand is truly miraculous. The yogis say that this posture combines the benefits of 84 classical asanas and therefore is limitless in the ailments it can cure and prevent. Respiratory infections, digestive disorders, skin problems, menstrual disorders, reproductive system imbalances, mental diseases, STDs and all problems related to the ears, nose, head, throat, eyes, stomach, spleen, lungs and more are benefited by this asana. It also has the capacity to improve the mind in unprecedented ways in the areas of concentration, memory, intelligence, stamina and psychic ability. It circulates the blood and oxygen in the body, allowing restoration of all of the glands in the body. It also rejuvenates, revitalizes, invigorates, purifies and exhilarates the entire being. Meditation is improved and the ability to reach Samadhi (the height of Divine consciousness) becomes possible while performing this asana. Sirsasana should be practiced every day for 30 minutes to an hour, but remember to build to this level of practice gradually beginning with just a few minutes a day.
Kara wrote for HealthCentral as a patient expert for Food & Nutrition.