Before we continue with the second half of Parivrttaikapada Sirsasana (Twisted Split-Legged Headstand), I would like to relate a brief story to you. This past week I have been engaged in a seven-day fast, consisting of green tea, water, diluted fruit juices, and daily super food greens in warm water. A seven day fast is not to be taken lightly, so if you have not experienced a three day fast at a minimum, please never attempt one. If you choose to, please seek out professional advice and make a visit to your doctor first.
And on the seventh day…I wasn’t hungry
Today is the seventh day of my fast. I rose before the dawn and dressed in warm clothes before going outside to begin a deep three hour meditation. I timed it so that as I sat facing East, I would be just opening my eyes again as the sun cleared the ridge of the mountain on the far side of town. Somewhere in time between the beginning and the end (I can’t be sure) my breathing changed all on its own. From one breath to the next, I stopped breathing with my body and began to breathe with my Spirit. My next inhale lasted an eternity, and I literally felt myself breathing in the world around me – flashes of thoughts, emotions, places I have never been…and then the exhale!
There are no words…
The exhale lasted for eternity squared; if there can be such a thing. I flowed out with that breath and into the universe. I was nowhere, and I was everywhere. I had always dreamt in a moment such as this, I would visit the planets and distant stars, but I didn’t need to, I became the planets, I became everything. I felt The All – inside somehow and yet outside somehow. I am not ashamed to tell you that as I write this, tears of joy are falling from my eyes at the residual vibrations and emotion. There are no words to truly describe the feeling.
This transcendental experience ended abruptly with one of my neighbours who is an early riser shaking my shoulder. According to him, he shook me because he honestly thought I had completely stopped breathing. In seven minutes (the time it took my neighbour to smoke his cigarette), he did not see me exhale a single frosty breath in the pre-dawn air. I wasn’t upset, I honestly didn’t even care. My whole form was vibrating from the experience, and it was several hours before it subsided.
Now where were we? On Wednesday, we left off with a few exercises to help loosen and stretch the spine while feeling grounded, allowing our central channel to be a conduit for energy flowing from the Earth to the sky. Today we will move onto performing Parivrttaikapada Sirsasana and the two ‘stepping stone’ poses to get us there safely. Again, a word of caution: Please be sure you can maintain a headstand without support for a reasonable amount of time (at least thirty seconds – a minute is better) before attempting this full sequence.
Headstand into Twisted Headstand
After performing the suggested warm-up Asanas, come gently into a headstand. It is here that you must take the time to feel your center or midline of the body. To do this, spread your feet six inches or more, and concentrate on creating length from your groin to your feet. Slowly bring the legs back together while keeping the length you just created. Remember to keep breathing! I often find that poses requiring maximal torsion or inversion (and this is both) cause me to suspend my breath, so check your breathing regularly.
Headstand or Sirsasana
Pay attention to your neck muscles as you gently move so that your midline is directly over the center of your head. The neck should be loose, you are moving the body above the neck – do not swivel the neck at any time. Press your hands or wrists into the ground (depending on the style of headstand you can achieve) and breathe. Stay here for a few breaths and imagine your feet being gently pulled skyward, elongating your body from the crown of your head through your feet.
Twisted Headstand or Parsva Sirsasana
Focus on the ground and maintain a firm foundation as you gently twist your hips towards the right. Only twist lightly the first time as you gauge your body and mind’s response to this position. Slowly return to center, take a breath or two, and then twist gently to the left – again insuring you are firmly connected with the Earth. Once comfortable, keep your chest centered as you allow yourself to twist further into the pose. Imagine your body corkscrewing around a beam of light that flows from the ground through your crown chakra along Sushumna Nadi. Concentrate your awareness of breath towards you central channel as you prepare for Parivrttaikapada Sirsasana!
From center, allow your legs to gently split apart, right leg forward and left leg back. Use the back leg as your guide as you will tend to drop the front leg further than the rear. Now twist slowly until your right leg crosses the midline or Sushumna Nadi, whichever you find easier to feel. Remain in this position and breathe balance and connectedness along your midline for two breaths, then slowly return to center and remain here for two breaths, and then repeat to the other side.
There is of course, a number of “stretch this, elongate that, and release those and feel the other thing…” all designed to help you optimize the pose and perfect your form. My experience has been that especially with advanced inverted poses, there is enough on my mind focusing on the basics without crowding in all the details. My method is to achieve the pose safely, learn to hold it for a minimum of thirty seconds or more, and then allow my awareness to point out muscles and position-related adjustments that allow me to relax further into the asana. If you prefer all the recommendations up front to absorb before you attempt this pose, drop us a line and I will be happy to oblige!
¯Let’s twist again, like we did last summer…¯
Join us next week when I will offer you an article on obtaining the most from your fasting in mind, spirit, and body! Namaste