Inversions are an important part of our Yoga practice. In fact, Headstand is considered the “king of asanas” because of its overall effect on the whole body. While we walk around all day, sit at desks, drive cars, and stand on our feet for long periods of time, gravity starts to take its toll on our body. Inverting our legs above our head reverses the action of gravity by moving the fluids in our body from our feet back to our head. Headstands improve and positively affect the cardiovascular, lymphatic, nervous, and endocrine systems of the body. Turning upside down not only improves our health, but also increases mood by decreasing anxiety and stress while improving self-confidence. Getting those feet above your head will give you a little shift in perspective too, throwing a new light on old habits and behaviors. Headstand is a multifaceted posture and should not be rushed. Practice self-love and move nice and slow. Increasing strength and moving with ease. Enjoy how this pose unfolds with regular practice.
If you fall out, it’s ok!
It’s true – if you fall out, it is ok – it doesn’t mean you are loved any less.
3 postures to work your way up to head stand
Extended Puppy Pose (Uttana Shishosana)
Extended Puppy Pose provides a stretch for the spine and the shoulders. Open shoulders are important for a stable headstand, especially since the shoulders are the main action unit for this pose. Opening the shoulders and stretching the spine are the first steps to creating a strong headstand base.
From Table Top pose, start to walk your hands out above your head to the top of your mat until your forehead comes to the mat. Press your hands down and stretch through your arms while pulling your hips back toward your heels. Keep your elbows off the floor, and shift your hips as needed so that they remain directly above the knees. Tuck the toes for more stability. As the shoulders open in this pose, you can start to take a cheek to the floor, and eventually the chin can come to the floor.
Dolphin Pose (Ardha Pincha Mayurasana)
Dolphin Pose is an effective pose for strengthening the shoulders and the core. Core strength is necessary to get into headstand safely, and shoulder strength is important to stay in the headstand safely. Hamstring flexibility is also an important factor in moving into headstand. This pose will help open your hamstrings as well, making it easier to float your legs up into headstand.
From Table Top Pose, lower down to your forearms and measure the distance between your elbows by grabbing opposite arms with your hands. From there, release your hands and keep your elbows where they are. Either interlace your fingers, or place your palms flat on the floor. Start to tuck your toes and lift your hips as your legs move toward straight. Let your head be heavy on a relaxed neck as you press into the elbows to move your chest toward your thighs. Start to walk your feet in toward your elbows as you find more space in your hamstrings. Feel the stretch in your shoulders as you engage your core to keep your back from arching.
Swimming Dolphin Pose (Makara Adho Mukha Svanasana)
From Dolphin Pose, you can start to move into Forearm Plank and swim your dolphin by moving between the two poses. This flow will increase the strength in your shoulders and core even more, preparing for headstand.
From Dolphin Pose, walk your feet back a little, and inhale as you start to move your shoulders forward, shifting into a forearm plank. Keep the core engaged as you expand through your collar bones, and lengthen through the crown of your head. Your body will find an even line: shoulders, hips, and heels. Start to exhale, and lift your hips back and up while pressing your elbows and wrists firmly into the floor. Keep flowing from Dolphin to Forearm Plank, pairing the breath with movement.
Are you ready to try? Remember the rules
The Book Rule – If you opened a book and tried to make it stand upright, how would it look? Your headstand’s foundation should look the same. Shoulders over the elbows with the hands clasped. If your elbows are too far apart, you’ll fall forward or back, and the same would happen if they were pulled in too close to each other – it’d be impossible to keep your balance. Back to your book image: if you spread the ends too far apart, it’ll tip over, right? Same goes for your body!
The “L” Rule –Make an “L” with your right hand using the index finger and thumb. Bring your thumb to your nose and stretch your index finger to your scalp and move it as far back as it’ll go without moving your thumb. Wherever the index finger stops is about where the pressure should be when you’re balancing.
So, now you have your solid foundation, you know where the pressure will be applied. Snuggle the head down, pop the hips up like you’re doing a downward dog, and walk the feet towards the face until it feels like you’re about to tip over. Stop here, and try pulling one knee into your chest, and then the other. There’s no kicking in headstand and no reason to try to send both feet up in the air, not now. Practice and all is coming. When you feel balanced and are ready to send your feet up, try to find Tadasana, in headstand, its easy, it’s a standing posture but upside down.
Something that I see much too often and even when I try to be very clear in class is people sitting up right after and inversion, you should stay low after you are finished. The excitement of headstand can take over and students tend to “pop” up into a seated posture. This has the potential to make you light headed, dizzy or give you a head rush. Take your time keep your head down for five breaths if you can.
The ability to perform headstand does not define you or your Yoga practice, take your time and enjoy the journey.
xoxo Minh – Sherri (Minh) Lowe is a 200 E-RYT teacher and co-founder of Yogatique Bangkok. She is a fifty-two year old Canadian transplant living in Bangkok. When she is not rolling around on her yoga mat, she enjoys cycling, trying new vegan recipes, a cold beer, talking to random dogs, lingering in coffee shops and exploring Bangkok. When not pursing these activities, she is writing about them