Beyond the comfort zone: Try a headstand

After doing yoga for a while, sometimes we want a little more than a downward dog or triangle. Sometimes we want to push ourselves a bit further, sometimes not. I did yoga regularly for years and didn’t push myself, which is fine, too.

When I started regular yoga in 2001, I dreaded the class where the yoga teacher, Trevor, would say “Next, we are going to try some headstands. You can bring your mat up against the wall…” Ugh. I didn’t want to stand on my head, so I just would remain in childs pose or watch the people pop up on their mat or wall.

The best alternative and preparation is Dolphin pose, which is Downward Dog on your forearms. So, every time headstand would come up, I’d remain in Dolphin pose. This built my upper body strength and forearm placement for the time I was ready. 

I wasn’t ready to push myself into handstand for years to come. When you, as the reader, are ready, follow these steps

Beyond the comfort zone: Try a headstand

How to do a controlled headstand:

  • First, be aware of where to place your hands. Since the front part of the head will be making contact with the floor, hands need to cradle the back of the head.
  • The elbows need to be placed shoulder width apart.
  • You can determine that by taking hands to opposite elbows for measurement.
  • This is just a close up of Tim’s manly biceps.
  • Tim is in Dolphin pose here.
  • Place head on mat, starting with the hairline, placing it down, slightly moving toward top of head.
  • Push elbows and forearms into ground.
Beyond the comfort zone: Try a headstand
  • Start walking the feet up towards the elbows. Keep pressure on forearms, trying to place minimal weight on head.
  • Try to walk up enough where you can feel comfortable balancing on tip toes.
  • Draw in your bandha’s:
  • Mula banda = pelvic floor
  • Uddiyana banda = lower abdomen
  • Drawing in the bandhas allows your hip flexors to lift legs.
  • Stop here if this is your first time. Keep practicing this position.
  • Start to balance and lift knees.
  • If this is putting too much pressure on head, stop and adjust. Try to focus on putting pressure into forearms.
  • If you need to stop here, please do. This is a huge achievement getting to this stage.
  • Start to straighten the legs. Keep the weight on forearms.
  • Well done, you are in a headstand!
  • Maintain that headstand by tightening the bandhas (mainly the lower abs) and squeezing the inner thighs together.
  • Please note that if you are by the wall, you can bend your knees and prop yourself up.
  • This will give you the support and allow you to get used to headstand safely.
Beyond the comfort zone: Try a headstand

Coming down from your headstand with control:

  • Start bending the knees, draw in your bandhas and slowly squeeze them into your body.
  • Place the feet back on the floor.
  • Come into Childs pose, resting the forehead on the floor.

There are other ways people can try headstands. It is always taught that the best way to learn headstands is by coming up in a controlled manner.

However, sometimes, people would like to try to kick upwards to the wall, being supported by their teacher.

Tips for a gentle kick up headstand:

  • Come into Dolphin pose, following instructions of head placement from the steps above.
  • Walk feet up as close as possible to elbows.
  • Start to lift right leg and place down. Lift left leg and place down.
  • Choose leg that feels most comfortable and lift that leg. Gently kick upwards.
  • If you are close to the wall, you can also use the wall to prop you up and experiment with taking one leg off wall then both.
  • Ask your teacher to help you as well.

Here is my class this morning, giving it a try:

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