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Inversion Yoga Poses

Challenge Pose: Salamba Sirsasana II

Shift your perspective as you move step by step into Salamba Sirsasana II.

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PREVIOUS STEP IN YOGAPEDIA 3 Ways to Prep for Salamba Sirsasana II
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Salamba Sirsasana II Sa = With · Alamba = Support · Sirsa = Head · Asana = Pose

Tripod Headstand Benefits

Strengthens your arms and shoulders; improves digestion; gives you new perspective, and asks you to face your fears

Step 1

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IAN SPANIER

Come to Prasarita Padottanasana, and place the top of your head on the mat slightly in front of your hands to form a small triangle with your head as the apex (highest point). You want your weight evenly distributed among each hand and your head. Think of how a tripod, or three-legged stool, balances; you want three strong points of contact on the mat. Make sure you can see your fingertips in your peripheral vision. Bend your elbows, and hug them into your midline (the imaginary line that runs through the center of your body) as if you were practicing Chaturanga Dandasana (Four-Limbed Staff Pose) arms. Press your hands into the mat, and elongate your fingers. This will help distribute your weight evenly in your hands so you don’t dump into your outer wrists and strain them. Isometrically drag your hands backward, which will help engage your shoulders so that you’re not straining your neck.

See also Supported Headstand

Step 2

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IAN SPANIER

Lift your shoulders away from the floor, and gently draw them toward the back of your body without pinching or forcing. Move your weight forward to come onto your tiptoes. (If you have tight hamstrings, bend your knees.) Start to engage your core by pulling your feet isometrically toward each other as you shift your weight farther forward. Keep hugging your elbows into your midline.

See also More Balance Poses

Step 3

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IAN SPANIER

Breathe in and out through your nose, creating the sound of the ocean at the back of your throat (Ujjayi Pranayama). Let your breath be the soundtrack of the pose. On an inhalation, begin to lift your legs up and out to your sides. As you shift forward and your feet and legs start to lift off the ground, your hips will move forward. Lift your feet higher, and spread and flex your toes. Lift your kneecaps to keep your legs active. You are in Prasarita Padottanasana in midair. Keep your fingers spread wide, and use your fingertips as brakes to keep from tipping over. If at any point you feel strain or pain, come down.

See also More Inversion Poses

Step 4

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IAN SPANIER

Bear down in your hands and arms. On an inhalation, start to pull your legs up toward each other like two magnets. Keep extending your legs, engaging your core, pressing into your hands, and pulling everything into your midline. Bring your inner heels and big toes together. Point your feet, and then flex your toes. Pull your rib cage toward the back of your body. Keep drawing your elbows into your midline to maintain your balance. Squeeze your inner thighs. Isometrically spin your hands out to help you find better balance. Hold for 5–10 breaths. Listen to the sound of your breath. To come out of the pose, draw your knees into your chest and squeeze them together; then, with a long exhalation, start to lower your feet. Come down as slowly as you can, engaging your core the entire way. Rest in Child’s Pose for another 10 breaths to prevent a head rush after being upside down.

See also Handstand

Stay Safe

It’s essential to develop upper back, shoulder, and core strength prior to attempting this pose so you can protect your neck. If you feel discomfort in your neck at any point, come down immediately. You should never move through pain. Your cervical spine supports your head and connects it to your trunk. This portion of your spine has a lot of mobility and flexibility and is prone to injury. In extreme cases, compression of your nerve roots can damage your spinal cord, impair blood flow, or cause neurological dysfunction.

If your neck feels rigid, bring your feet down to the ground. Find stability again, and gently move more weight toward your forehead to see if that helps. If the placement of your head feels better, you may have a flatter cervical spine with less natural curve. By moving more toward your forehead, you distribute your weight slightly and may be able to take pressure off your neck. Again, if your breath begins to strain or your feel pain, it’s time to come down. Any time your head is below your heart, you are in an inversion, so stay in Prasarita Padottanasana for similar benefits.

See also Feathered Peacock Pose

About our Pro
Teacher and model Jenny Brill focuses on alignment-based hatha yoga, with an emphasis on humor. She’ll make you sweat up a storm and laugh out loud at the same time. A native of Los Angeles, she’s taught yoga for more than 25 years and is a regular contributor to several teacher-training programs. Her authenticity, energy, and mastery of fine-tuning alignment has created a strong community of devoted and fearless yogis.