As members of this human race, we tend to spend the majority of our time, feet on the ground, head in the air, completely at the mercy of gravity. Essentially, this places an enormous burden on the heart, which must maintain proper blood circulation. Hence, those who are forced to stand for extended periods of time in their work frequently suffer tiredness, varicose veins or other circulatory problems. If circulation is sluggish, sufficient oxygen cannot be conducted to the brain, resulting in poor functioning of our body's vital computer.

Although many people experience chronic fatigue and lethargy, they remain complacent about their condition, oblivious to the fact that the body is only capable of responding if directed properly. Therefore, let us adopt a new direction - sirshasana.

This asana, commonly known as the headstand, is regarded as the 'king' of asanas, for it provides countless benefits to the practitioner. The practice of sirshasana creates harmonious functioning of two vital glands of the body - the pineal and the pituitary, which both exert a powerful influence over the physiological, mental and emotional states of our being. The pineal, located in the centre of the brain, has , long been associated with ajna chakra, the psychic centre of intuitive knowledge, the subtle channel for guru's! command. For optimum performance, the pinea requires a continuous fresh blood supply; easily provided by sirshasana.

The pituitary, a tiny organ near the top of the spine, in the brain, is master controller of the endocrinal system, responsible for a vast number of body processes. Malfunctioning results in hormone deficiencies of other glands, together with lowered vitality and general ill health. Once again, sirshasana can revitalise the pituitary with oxygenated blood, allowing it to perform its work more efficiently.

Of course, this asana has a profound influence over the entire brain: oxygenated blood flushes away toxins, rejuvenates and repairs brain tissues;, and provides ventilation. One is left feeling refreshed, relaxed and mentally alert.

In 1962, a Polish team of researchers investigated the effects of sirshasana and found that three minutes of practice stabilised the unbalanced relationship between sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems. There was increased oxygen assimilation with lowered respiration rate. An increase in leucocyte blood cells indicated the body's greater resistance to infection, and blood clotting times were reduced - a sign of body relaxation. A larger volume of blood, was flushed through the lungs, allowing the upper lobe to be fully washed of stagnant blood. The heart and intestines gained a well deserved rest. In yogic terms, sirshasana enables the body to conserve the prana shakti, or vital energy, so necessary for dynamic expression at all levels of existence.

Most people now realise that excessive mental stress can cause disease in the body or mind. Through the practice of sirshasana, an individual can reduce the harmful effects of stress, by strengthening the nervous system, and lowering the blood levels of stress hormones.

Sirshasana, aside from its overall cleansing and toning effect on the brain, has beneficial effects on practically every organ and system throughout the body. It also improves the power of intellect, concentration and intuition.

We could describe the merits of this asana endlessly - how it provides physiological balance, emotional and mental stability and spiritual awareness. But words are not enough. Learn to practise this asana gradually, under guidance, and observe the transformation that occurs within you. Only then does the real yoga begin.