The first time I saw a yoga instructor in a headstand, in the middle of the room with no wall to save her, I was in awe and fell in love. With the headstand and the instructor! But I was convinced that I would NEVER be able to conquer this magical pose.
Fast forward 8 years. I am now half way through my 500 Hour RYT training and we spent one month working on inversions. I was excited and scared when I saw this on the schedule. By this point I can do headstands at the wall and even do them without using the wall, but was unable to overcome my fear to move into the middle of the room. I also had not mastered piking into the headstand, but raised 1 leg up at a time.
Now just 2 months later, I am comfortable coming into headstand on forearms, on tripod and from a pike or wide straddle. Here are a few tips that helped me conquer my fear of headstands.
- Come closer to the wall. This is for comfort because the goal is to use body strength rather than the wall for support. But it is nice to have there if you get nervous and start to tip.
- Interlace fingers with pinky tucked in.
- Find the sweet spot on top of the head. Snuggle the back of the head against the hands.
- Keep elbows shoulder width apart.
- Pike forward bringing hips over shoulders and coming onto the toes with legs straight. Work to keep your back straight. You can see I am still working on this as my back tends to round as I come into a pike. Press evenly into the forearms so you aren’t sinking into the shoulders.
- Option 1: Bring knees into chest and raise knees to parallel with hips
- Option 2: Bring both legs straight up-this is a core more and you may need to practice this with a tiny push off the toes to get momentum to raise the legs. I struggle with this from supported headstand but do well with it in tripod.
- Once legs are extended above the hips, squeeze the thighs together and think of lifting the soles of the feet to the sky. Continue pressing the forearms into the ground and spread the shoulders blades apart and down towards the hips to keep the weight light on the neck. Breathe deeply, keeping ribs tucked in and abs engaged. Try to stay here for 5 breaths to start building up to 3-5 minutes.
- When you are ready to lower, come down slowly with control both legs at a time (this takes practice and lots of core strength, so take it slow and steady).
- Come into child’s pose for 3-5 breaths and then into down dog to lengthen out the neck and spine.
Inversions are so excellent for your body and circulation. Benefits include:
1. Relieves Stress
Headstand is known as a cooling posture, meaning that it helps you to draw your attention inwards. This posture is extremely helpful if you are having anxiety, stress, fear or otherwise worrisome thoughts. Combine headstand with long, slow breathing and you have a recipe for stress relief.
2. Increases Focus
When you turn upside down, you are increasing the blood flow to your brain. This can help to improve mental function, and increase you sense of focus. Along with helping to reduce fear and worry, this posture will improve your ability to keep your mind sharp and clear.
3. Improves Blood Flow To The Eyes
When you flip over, you will be sending extra oxygen and nutrient rich blood to the head, and that means more will be getting to your eyes. This can help to prevent macular degeneration and other eye issues.
4. Increases Blood Flow To The Head And Scalp
Headstand is an awesome posture if you want to optimize the nutrient flow to your head and scalp. You can help your body deliver extra nutrients and oxygen to your scalp, thereby improving nutrient delivery to your hair follicles by turning upside down.
5. Strengthens Shoulders And Arms
While you are holding yourself up in headstand, you should be pushing down into the ground with your forearms, utilizing the strength of your arms, shoulders and back to keep the pressure off of your head and neck. This is an awesome posture for improving upper body strength and muscular endurance.
6. Improves Digestion
When you allow the effects of gravity to be reversed on your digestive organs, you will help to move stuck material, release trapped gases, as well as improve blood flow to the all important digestive organs — increasing nutrient absorption and delivery to your cells. Again, if you combine headstand with focused belly breathing you will have a double whammy effect.
7. Helps To Flush Out The Adrenal Glands
Going upside-down will squeeze your little adrenal glands, which are responsible for the production of those so-called stress hormones. The cleaner your adrenal glands are, the more optimal they will function. This will help you to adapt to stress better!
8. Decreases Fluid Build-Up In The Legs, Ankles, And Feet
Edema in the legs is no fun, and it can happen if you tend to spend long hours on your feet. Reversing the effects of gravity on your bodily fluids will help to flush out built up water in the legs, relieving the uncomfortable feeling of edema.
9. Develops Strength In The Core Muscles
Headstand is a major core workout. You will rely on your core strength to hold your legs up and keep your balance throughout the pose. Having a strong core makes you more durable and less prone to injury in yoga, and in life overall.
10. Stimulates The Lymphatic System
Your lymph system can also be called your garbage dump system. This network of nodes and fluids help to remove waste products from your blood. When you flip onto your head you will be directly stimulating your lymphatic system and thereby helping to remove toxins from your body.
Avoid if you have high blood pressure, are pregnant or have glaucoma, neck or back injuries.
So if you need a new perspective in life, try turning upside down and you’ll see the world in a whole new way.