How many variations of headstand are there?
In a previous post, I quoted a passage from N.E. Sjoman’s short but beautiful book on the Yoga Tradition of the Mysore Palace which called into question the true origins of sirsana (the headstand). Regardless of its origin, the headstand is an important inversion regularly undertaken by many current yoga practitioners (yours truly included).
However sirsana is a tricky pose, and must be learned under the watchful eye of a trusted teacher. Many students either rush into sirsana (using poor technique) or hold it too long — either way injuries become likely. There are other variations and preparatory asanas that one can work on prior to attempting a headstand. This is one pose that you shouldn’t rush into.
Which brings me to the answer to the question posed in the title: there are 32 headstand variations.
[From Krishnamacharya: His Life and Teachings, page 25.]
Usually Krishnamacharya did not demonstrate asanas to me … A rare exception that I recall was a class in which Krishnamacharya mentioned that there were thirty-two variations of headstand. This seemed excessive to me, I must have looked a little doubtful. He considered my expression for a few moments and then said, “What? It looks like you don’t believe me.”
The product we call a yoga mat did not exist in those days. Krishnamacharya had a handmade carpet of soft material, about a third of an inch in thickness. I used a similar carpet for my practice at home. If you spread your feet while standing on the carpet, the carpet would stretch and your feet would slide apart several inches, making balance difficult. Consequently, I did standing asanas on the plain floor, the carpet being reserved for lying and seated asanas.
Krishnamacharya gestured toward the middle of the room. “Fold the carpet and place it here,” he said. Then he proceeded to demonstrate all thirty-two headstand variations! At that time he was about eighty-five years old. As I observed over the years as his student, it was in his nature to rise to the occasion when faced with a question — that is, if it was a meaningful question from a serious student.