Mental Health Awareness week takes place on the week commencing 14thMay, so it’s only right that here at Psycle, our yoga pose of the month is one with so many mental health benefits.
What is it?
The headstand, known as the King of Asanas, is a challenging pose – but one that comes with some incredible benefits.
The asana is an inversion and a strong arm-balance. While a small amount of the bodyweight is supported in the crown of the head, the forearms support the vast majority of the weight.
Inversions such as the headstand stimulate the parasympathetic nervous system (which helps to combat stress), and also lower blood pressure over time if practised regularly. On top of this, the headstand also strengthens the shoulder joints, shoulder girdles, core and inner thigh muscles. Aside from these seemingly endless physical benefits, inversions can also help to change our perspective.
Can I try it?
It is suggested that the headstand may not be an appropriate asana to practise if you have a neck injury, uncontrolled high blood pressure, glaucoma or a migraine – but don’t worry, alternatives are always available.
Here are some variations and helpful modifications you can try instead:
Downward dog or dolphin pose (forearms on the mat) are great alternatives to headstand that allow you to become comfortable being in an inversion.
Stay in half headstand walking your feet forward until your hips are above your shoulders.
Try practising headstand with two stacks of foam blocks supporting your shoulder.
Legs-up-the-wall pose is a great way to release fatigue from the legs without taking yourself into a full inversion.
So why go upside down for your mental health?
We’d love to invite you to switch up the story for Mental Health Awareness Week by changing your perspective and gaining empowerment and clarity. Whether physically going upside down or mental switching up your thoughts, both can lead to a whole new sense of self.
Our internal narrative can be the make or break of our happiness on a day-to-day basis. A change in our fundamental beliefs about ourselves can catalyse a change in how we feel and in turn, the way we act. Encouraging beliefs support courageous action.
The thing is… this lies with us and us only. We have so much more power and control over our thoughts and feelings than we realise. Starting to believe in this is already empowering and strengthening in itself.
1. Become aware of the self-talk. One of the best things yoga can teach you is awareness. When we start to become aware of ourselves, our patterns and our habits, we actually begin to regain control of those that are not helpful.
Notice if you constantly say to yourself ‘I don’t have time,’ ‘I’m not good enough for this,’ or ‘I should be doing more of this.’ Negative words or shouldsand needsare all triggers to our sympathetic nervous system and kickstart the downward spiral to tension and unhappiness.
2. Change up the story by changing your words, and sure enough life will start to switch up for you. Try choosing sentiments like, ‘I do have time for this tomorrow when I will do a great job of it,’ ‘I feel the challenge and know I can bring something of value to the project,’ and ‘when the time is right I would love to do more of x.’
3.Catch yourself and act in the moment. If you catch yourself using negative language whether in your head or out loud, then remember to turn yourself or your thoughts upside down by doing one of the following:
Challenge 1: When you catch yourself doing it then write down what you could(remember no shoulds!) say instead.
Challenge 2: Drop down and do 5 burpees – there’s nothing quite like a bit of sweat to get you energised and feeling good.
Challenge 3: ACTUALLY turn yourself upside down and give a headstand a go, or kick up into a handstand against the wall. Give your brain a boost of fresh blood.