Professor Julian Aleksandrowicz, director of the Third Clinic of Medicine in Cracow, Poland, was one of the first people to investigate the effects of sirshasana, the king of asanas.*1 He studied this posture in terms of the haemostatic, haemodynamic and bio-chemical phenomena of the blood. After 30 to 50 minutes in this posture the ECG (electro-cardiogram) of the heart and the radiological examinations (X-ray) were carried out. The subject of the experiment performed sirshasana on an empty stomach with complete psychic and physical calm and concentration. Sirshasana was held for 30 to 40 minutes after which several minutes were taken to relax. Measurements were made before, during and after the asana was performed and the following results were found:
There was an increase in the leucocyte (white blood cell - WBC) count, a slight rise in the absolute granulocyte (WBC) values, and a significant increase of the percentage and absolute lymphocyte count. This implies that the body's ability to withstand and resist infection is increased, as the WBC's are used to destroy bacteria and other foreign objects in the body.
There was a moderate reduction of the clotting times of the blood and serum as well as reduced serum prothrombin levels. This indicates that a state of relaxation was developed through sirshasana. Stress is known to increase the clotting time of the blood and some people believe that this is partly responsible for the phenomenon of hardening of the arteries. Thus sirshasana may therapeutic advantages in the prevention and treatment arterial diseases such as coronary artery disease, arteriosclerosis and embolism.
There was a slight fall in scrum proteins except for alpha - 2 percentages (significance undetermined).
The EEG showed increasing muscle tremor and small variations in the T waves (significance undetermined).
X-rays showed a considerable shift of the diaphragm, changes in the longitudinal and transverse dimensions of the heart, and widening of the arteries and veins leading to and from the lungs, especially in the upper lobes. The significance is that more blood is traveling to and from the lungs, increasing oxygenation. The upper lobe which usually is not well oxygenated by a normal breath, is washed free of stagnant blood.
The amount of air breathed per minute (minute ventilation flaring the performance of sirshasana was very low, less than three litres per minute (compared with a normal eight litres per minute). The respiration frequency (number of breaths per minute) was lowered.
Oxygen consumption by the tissues was 33% higher than normal and the amount of oxygen exhaled was 10% less.
Sirshasana allows for a greater possibility of adaptive mechanisms in respect to circulation and respiration. This makes it particularly useful in this modern age of super jets and space travel for people who are often exposed to extreme changes of body position and gravitation.
From a scientific point of view, sirshasana is a very beneficial exercise. From a practical point of view, by practicing this asana for yourself, new experience, knowledge and understanding will dawn. Conduct your own experiments to ascertain the effects on your body, mind and life.
Note: Sirshasana is an advanced posture and should only be learned under skilled guidance.
*1. Gaertner H., Pasek T. et al. ‘The Influence of the Body Position on the Composition and Circulation of the Blood’, Acta Physiologica Polonica, 1965, vol. 16