Read Dharma Mittra’s Response:
Sirsasana, or Headstand, is known as the “King of Postures” and has miraculous benefits. It allows large amounts of blood to enter the upper regions of the body, which vitalizes all the organs that usually do not receive it. Due to the reversal of the force of gravity, the areas of the body that usually support weight are rested, and the ones that don’t are now exercised. Headstand strengthens the upper part of the spine, neck, and head and allows the heart to rest. The practice tones the brain, spinal chord, the entire nervous system, and the organs of digestion and elimination. As well as heating the upper body through increased circulation to the brain, Headstand brings clear thinking and mental and psychic powers. It also aids in maintaining brahmacharya (celibacy) and awakening the kundalini (psychospiritual force).
Sarvangasana always follows Sirsasana to bring balance and harmony. The pair is described as married, as a husband and wife, mother and father, or king and queen. To receive the greatest benefits of the practice, they must be practiced together. Beginner students may start only with Sarvangasana as a preparation for doing Sirsasana as their future practice. Depending on students’ fitness, and whether they are able to practice Headstand with stability, then both should indeed be practiced together. They may hold either pose for 45 seconds or 1 minute to begin with and, according to capacity, move toward 3 to 5 minutes.
Following the Headstand practice, one should move into Savasana (Corpse Pose) for at least 1 to 3 minutes in order to rebalance the blood pressure before moving into Salamba Sarvangasana. In the Shoulderstand, the upper vertebra are now stretched and made strong and elastic as the thyroid gland is flushed with blood and nourished properly through the chin lock, which is a natural part of the pose. The pose also tones and increases the circulation of the thymus, tonsils, ear glands, and the upper chest region. The husband and wife are working together in harmony with the massage of the thyroid that balances the metabolism and therefore brings a relaxed and cooling effect to the entire system.
Students should know this and be encouraged to do the postures in this order if conditions are available. I would be sure to recommend also that Sarvangasana be followed immediately by Matsyasana (Fish Pose) to bring the maximum benefit. It removes stiffness in the cervical region, opens the lungs, provides a reverse massage of the thyroid, and stimulates the spinal chord in the opposite direction. This will help prevent ossification of the vertebra and hunchback-type symptoms, and it will expand the chest and breath capacity. The pose is also the destroyer of many desires.
Most important, there are eight basic poses I recommend that will give you everything you need for good physical health: Sirsasana, Sarvangasana, Matsyasana, Bhujangasana (Cobra Pose), Paschimottanasana (Seated Forward Bend), Ardha Matsyandrasana (Half Lord of the Fish Pose), Maha Mudra (One Leg Back Stretch), and Siddhasana (Adept’s Pose). Practicing these postures daily will help bring self-control and radiant health and will destroy the suffering and ravages of old age.
Sri Dharma Mittra, who has been teaching since 1967, was the first independent yoga teacher in New York City. In 1984, he created the famous Master Yoga Chart of 908 Postures, which has become an invaluable teaching tool. Dharma is the creator of more than 300 postures and is the author of the book Asanas: 608 Yoga Poses. He is also the inspiration for the Yoga Journal coffee-table book Yoga. His Maha Sadhana DVD set (A Shortcut to Immortality, for Level I, and Stairway to Bliss, for Level II), has been widely acclaimed as preservations of the main teachings of yoga. Dharma Mittra: A Friend to All, is a biography documenting experiences of his students from the 1960s on. Dharma Mittra: Yoga Life of a Yogi teacher trainings (200- and 500-hour) are held in New York, San Francisco, Japan, and at workshops worldwide. For more information, visit www.dharmayogacenter.com.