Now that we've all mastered standing on our heads (ha - we can dream!), it's time to talk about taking it up a notch. I often see yogis who rock a mean headstand. At the end of every class, they pop right up into it and can probably stay there for minutes on end. When I see these yogis, though, I can't help but wonder why they're only sticking to the same variation each and every time. I mean, don't get me wrong - it's crucial to "master" the foundations of a pose, and it's awesome once you are comfortable in one to challenge yourself by staying there longer and longer each time. But in addition to being content, yoga teaches us about personal growth and moving beyond our edge. And it seems that we practice this in other poses when we try new variations once we nail the foundation, but for some reason, that is just so much more daunting upside down.
There's no reason it should be, though! Being someone who was deathly afraid of headstands (and still kinda is), I can tell you that playing with headstand variations really isn't that much scarier than getting into headstand in the first place. The concept is the same: stack hips over shoulders. Once you've got that down, you're golden. So if you're pretty confident with your headstand and you're feeling a little motivated this weekend, maybe give one (or all!) of these variations a try!
One of my favorite variations is tripod headstand with Lotus legs. Disclaimer: you should have full Lotus in your practice before trying this - be extra cautious of your knees!
To enter, come into Tripod Headstand, with legs straight overhead. Starting with your more open leg (we all have one side that is more flexible, more open, whatever you want to call it), bring one foot into the opposite hip crease. Easy-peasy, right?? The second leg is a little tricky. You'll bend the leg and cross the shin on top of the other shin, wiggling your foot into the opposite hip crease. Press your hands into the mat and activate your core even more to help maintain balance while you've got the wobbles going on up top.
Flow From Crow Pose to Headstand to Chaturanga
Be a Lady and Sit with Legs Crossed at the Ankles
So unlike the Crow - Headstand - Chaturanga variation, this one is actually much harder than it looks. From Tripod Headstand with your legs straight overhead, draw your knees into your chest and cross your ankles. Slowly inch your hands in, bringing arms towards one another until forearms press into each other and fingers are point out. Actively press your arms into one another and hug your belly in to help maintain balance. You can also bring your knees to rest on your upper arms.
Mukta Hasta Sirsasana
I think this one is the most challenging variation because I also find it the scariest. Your neck is definitely the most vulnerable here, as your hands are not really anywhere near your head to help distribute your weight. So if you have even the slightest of neck issues, you may want to avoid this option.
Again, start in Tripod Headstand with legs straight overhead. Activate your core like you never have before, so much that you can feel your belly button touching your spine. Slowly, inch one hand out a little bit and then inch the other hand out the same distance and repeat this until your arms are out straight. To make the pose more accessible, create a larger angle with your arms (i.e., send your arms more out in front of you). To make it more challenging, send your arms straight out to the sides, keeping your entire body on one plane.
Headstand is already challenging enough so it's perfectly normal if you think it's straight up crazy to make it any more difficult. And it is straight up crazy. But crazy can be a little fun, right? And fun is what makes life worth living so I say give it a go, but take the necessary precautions of course :)
I’m Anahita Reilly, a Type-A, native Northern Virginian, happiness lover. This blog evolved out of my longstanding desire to share this beautiful thing called yoga with others. Click here to read more...