I love this variation of Sirsasana. A blog post is not a substitute for good teacher who will demonstrate, instruct thoughtfully and supervise carefully while to you tackle this pose. So get yourself to class! That being said here a few helpful hints to find strength and balance in tripod headstand or sirsasana II.
Attempt this pose towards the later end of your practice. It is important that you give your body, particularly, your shoulders, core and hamstrings time to warm up.
Awareness of the contact points between your body and the floor is crucial. Double over your yoga mat for extra cushioning under the head if you need it. Starting on your hands and knees, bring the crown of your head to the floor and place the palms of your hands flat on the mat, shoulder distance apart. Walk your hands back to the point where the elbows stack directly over the wrists. Your forearms should be perpendicular to the floor which creates the ‘tripod’ between the head and hands.
Proper shoulder engagement is vital to ensure that you neck is not vulnerable in this pose. Once you have found the tripod between hands and head, squeeze the upper arms in towards the sides of the body slightly and draw your shoulder blades down your back. Keep the front points of the shoulders energetically moving up and away from the floor. Think Chaturanga arms! Make sure your neck feels long and never compressed.
Tap into your core strength. Draw the navel back towards the spine, lift the pelvic floor and hug the ribcage in.
Once you have a strong step-up in the upper body you can start to explore different variations of this headstand. Tuck your toes under and lift the hips as though you were doing downdog with the lower body. Baby step your feet towards your hand. When your feet are in as close as possible (essentially your hips are is aligned on top of the head and the shoulders), try bringing each knee, one at a time, to rest on top of your triceps. Engage the muscles of your inner thighs. Stay here for 10 breaths. This compact version may be enough for many weeks or even months.
Once your are more confident, engage your core and float the knees off your triceps, bring your knees together and keep your legs bent, with your heels hovering near your sit bones. Stay here for 10 breaths. Start to extend your legs slowly upwards, straight into the air. Hug the inner legs together and engage the muscles of your feet. Hold for as long as you desire, then come down slowly mirroring the way you came up. Once you can balance with ease you can work toward lifting straight legs off the floor. Never kick up into any variation of headstand. You will risk causing injury to the neck.
It is useful to carry out this pose near a wall but without actually using it to assist you. Use it as a buffer so that you know you have support if you happen to lose your balance.If you take your time you won't fall.
It is best to avoid headstands altogether if you suffer from high blood pressure or acute neck pain. Women on their menstrual cycle and women who are pregnant should consult a doctor before attempting Sirsasana.
Above all have fun with it. Happy balancing!