One day, after my third book (currently on) and the fourth (ruminating and fermenting in my mind:) is done, i will work on the fifth -- which will be entirely devoted to the headstand. I guess I will have maximum fun writing it.. but for me, everything yoga says falls in place with this pose (the other pose, with the potential for reaching the nuance of yoga is the crow). But the message of the headstand comes only when u learn to hold it for long.... not a minute, not even in three minutes -- but when u hit five minutes, and progress to extend the duration in it...Even then,the message of yoga is only a glimmer. The real message seeps in only when you can hold it with a sense of lightness and effortlessness.
To hold the headstand, for long, you need so many things:
- to get into it you need to become independent of things which u were earlier dependent on (like how we are all used to standing on the feet, and the deep attachment to the earth we have). U need a certain sense of detachment.
- u need to be able to let go of past habits, like your attachment to the earth, a certain way of thinking. It really challenges set notions inside yourself. Even when you slip back into the old rut of a way of thinking, you will find you can come out of it, or at least be open to another viewpoint. It gives you the idea that a same situation can have different perspectives, and for no reason, and that they are just so.
- u need to be fearless (not worry about falling). Even those who get into the headstand for a short time, to hold it long, you need to zone in to the idea that you may fall when you decide to be that long against gravity. So, there must be the childlike state where falling is not an issue any more.
- You need to be pliant. If you accept or have fallen several times in the headstand, you become aware that being pliant is not being weak. It could mean strength, defined in another way, in another language.
- you need to be able to resist the drag of things that were designed to drag you down, like gravity. Gravity draws u down with a force that is rather violent, if you know anything about it -- at 3.5 meters per second drag, it is a powerful force. Our systems are used to it, so we don't feel it. Plus, it is gravity that holds us firmly to the earth(otherwise, as space travellers will tell you, we will all be flying about, without any place we can stay put!). So we are attached to it. Which is good, when it is good. But when you decide to leave it, as in the headstand, it still won't leave us. Nor can we leave it (as we do with relationships, cultural habits, ways of thinking, the reversal of a very subtle ego that comes to even those who practice hardcore yoga, and all of which cramps us). So, when we get up there, in the headstand, we have to learn to resist gravity which both holds us (when we are pliant, and on our feet) but will make itself felt if we resist it (as we do with machines in the gym or in the headstand, when on the mat). So, this is gravity we are learning to become intimate it. As well as to resist. All balancers also shake us quite a bit for this reason. Gravity making itself felt. So we are flowing against something that we have not known to resist earlier. We are resisting something we simply don't have any clue how we may resist -- like our ego, for instance. In this, for me, comes through that the great line of Patanjali's Yoga Sutras Yogasch Chitta Vritti Nirodah.. the movement against the movement of the consciousness. So, yes, wow -- it is the headstand and the crow which will teach u this line most intimately, reaching it into our being, so it stops being merely an admirable line, this sutra, and becomes a craving and an experience. . Everybody acts like they understand Vedanta -- but in this line, and in this pose, the entire lesson... lifetimes:)
But lot of people hold the headstand, even when they hold it longer, with strength. That is easy. And not what was meant, I believe, in real yoga. Beyond strength a chilled out place, which is indifferent to everything. To hold the headstand softly, with comfort, that is where you actually understand that silly thing called the mind, and realise its desperation to recreate itself. When the headstand is held with strength we are still communing with gravity... we need that, because the next jump would be into the void... where you have nothing to hold u or give you a sense of wholeness!
Because when you hold the headstand with strength and sweat and heave, and cave you spine (second image) you are still groping for a grip on something. Plus, the ego is back in full swing. It needs the effort, the challenge of the pose. But when you hold it gently, swaying lightly, moving in directions from where you may fall (but don't because the awareness is flowing), then you are holding it in the void of experience. Without any need for titillation from that demon ego. The sense of time stops, You are in some quantum space, where finally your meditation will talk to you of those things the scriptures can only describe in parable, in stories and in esoteric words that has caused enough confusions that separates, sometimes. So, yes when you hold it with strength, the body is still aware of itself, the effort is very much there, the ego very badly so... So, to hold it gently, then, would be I think what was meant by that classical line about not seeing the mote for the mite in your eye. That finally, the mite (ego) is off the eye, and you can see the mote (Godhead)
This then is yoga -- where time stops, space expands, mind is still but flowing, and several things happen simultaneously. But mostly, that is the place where the ego drops off... and you really feel light. That is the lightness the headstand could give:)