Headstand Is NOT About Being on Your Head
Headstand is one of the most accessible inversions out there; not as intimidating as a handstand but plenty of fun! The name of the pose is a little misleading though: in full headstand you do not want to be balancing all of your way on top of your head – quite the opposite. To avoid compression of the neck you actually want to try to keep as much weight as you can away from the head, pressing down through the forearms and using the strength of the shoulders and core to balance instead. I like to visualize that I can wiggle a single piece of paper under my head. Eventually when you’ve fully mastered the pose you actually will be able to wiggle a piece of paper underneath your head.
The progression of first starting this pose through mastering looks like this:
At first you will likely feel about 40% of the weight on the head and 60% on the rest of your body. As you practice, work your way towards 10% or less weight on the head and at least 90% on the other areas of your body. The goal is to have as little weight and pressure on your head as possible. Protect your neck!! As with any inversion, alignment is KEY. Remember it’s a practice, not perfect. Take your time as you move through each step. When you reach a step that needs more work, pause and revisit it. As much as you want to kick up and get there right away, you will be setting yourself up for longterm success by mastering any pose step-by-step.
Dolphin Pose is a great pose to start with to master the strength that you need to then attempt headstand.
Keep the elbows in line with the shoulders and the wrists in line with the elbows. A little bend around the knees is fine; just make sure to lengthen the spine and draw the shoulder heads down the back body. Try to create space for the neck as you use this frame of the upper body as a preparation for your alignment in headstand.
Begin with your knees on the floor, like you’re about to move into child’s pose. Measure the space between the elbows (you want to be able to fully wrap the hands around the side edges of the elbows; meaning that your elbows will be right beneath your shoulders). Keep this space! A common beginner's mistake is to first measure, and then move the elbows out to the sides. Doing so will make you lose the frame of the upper back and you will collapse in the chest when you make your way upside down. Remember the bookcovers/bookends example? If a book is open too wide it will fall over. Find the best placement for your elbows, then keep them exactly where they are!
Interlace your fingers making a “cup” with your hands and release the two pinkies.
Place the crown of your head inside the “cup” of your hands.
Now, tuck your toes and lift your knees up off the floor .
Press your forearms firmly onto the floor, drawing the shoulder blades away from the neck, and start to slowly walk your feet closer in towards your elbows.
Walk your feet as close towards your elbows as possible. When you are able to walk your feet close enough that your hips are aligned right above your shoulders then you’re ready to move to the next step.
There is no kicking involved in headstand. Rather, shift your weight forward and feel your entire being becoming lighter.
Lift one foot off the earth, bringing your knee to your chest. Alternate your two legs and with practice you will eventually lift both feet off the earth.
When you feel fully strong, confident and ready to, extend one leg at a time to the sky.
Remember to use the strength of your shoulders and upper back to press your forearms into the floor taking any pressure off of your head.
Reach your toes to the sky as if you’re trying to grab a cloud and pull it down. Energize every muscle in your legs, feet and toes.
Getting out of a pose is just as important as how you get into it. For headstand, come down the same way you came into the pose → one leg at a time! Rest in child’s pose for several breaths to bring your heartrate down and reground yourself after any inversion. A good rule of thumb is to stay in your recovery pose (childs pose in this case) for the same amount of breaths as you were in the actual pose.
Patience. Practice not Perfect. Enjoy the journey. Once you reach the destination you will surely be excited but then ready to move onto the next challenge so enjoy the ride!
Do you have any tips for getting into headstand? Would love your ideas and input!