Headstand. Sirsasana. The king of all yoga poses (asanas). It is one of the most powerful and beneficial yoga poses you can do...when done safely and correctly, of course. Some of its many benefits include calming the brain, relieving stress and mild depression, improving digestion, stimulating the pituitary and pineal glands, and strengthening the arms, legs, spine, abdominal organs, and lungs. Sounds good, huh?
This king pose isn't for everyone, though. You should steer clear if you are experiencing back or neck pain, headaches, any heart conditions, high or low blood pressure, or a bun in the oven (this one can go either way, but the general guideline is to avoid completely if you are pregnant and new to headstand). You also may want to steer clear if you are experiencing fear, and if that's you, you are not alone.
But good news is that is something we can work with! We talked about this in an earlier post, 5 Ways to Overcome Your Fear of Falling. There are also two variations of headstand that are both fairly accessible: Bound Headstand and Tripod Headstand. I found the tripod variation to be "easier" so I started to work with that one first and it was a long time before I was able to do the bound variation. But many others think the bound variation is easier. It's different for everyone so I encourage you to try both and see which one is easier, or not as scary, for you.
Since headstand is such a special pose, I think it'll be most helpful to break it down with lots of pictures and options (many thanks to my girl, Lauren, for being my model!).
Tripod Headstand (Sirsasana II)
There are a couple ways to get into Tripod Headstand, but one of the most common ways is to start from a Wide-Legged Forward Bend (Prasarita Paddottanasana):
Take a wide-enough stance so that you can place your hands flat on the mat, directly under your shoulders (it's okay to bend your knees). Bend your arms and place the top of your head on the mat (you may want to place your back close to a wall if you're new to this so that you can find the sweet balance spot on the top of your head).
Your elbows should stay parallel with fingers pointed forward. Your hands should be far enough away from your face so that you can see the tops of your finger tips.
One leg at a time, bring your knee to rest on your arm so that you create an egg shape. Use your core and press into your hands as you lift your knees off your arms, stacking your hips over your shoulders. If you're practicing this for the first time, stay here and practice getting comfortable upside down before straightening the legs.
Pressing into your hands, draw your belly in and slowly start to extend one leg up at a time. Press up through the balls of your feet and squeeze your thighs together. Keep your elbows hugged in and continue to press into your hands, and voila! Headstand!
If you've mastered the upside-down egg, another entry option is from Wide-Legged Forward Bend (Prasarita Padottanasana). This variation takes a little bit of flexibility/openness in the hammies to be able to get your head on the mat, but you can also bend your knees to reach your head down.
From Wide-Legged Forward Bend, place your hands down on the mat, fingers pointed forward, just far enough back so that you can see your fingertips, elbows hugging in. Shift your weight forward, bringing hips over shoulders, and slowly start to lift your legs off the mat, drawing them up and in towards one another. Squeeze your thighs together, and I mean squeeeeeeze! This will help you firm up through the whole body in order to get your balance. When you're ready to come out, use your core to lower down the same way you went up.
Bound Headstand (Salamba Sirsasana)
To enter Bound Headstand, kneel on your mat (towards the back), and place the top of your head down. Interlace your fingers behind your head, as if you're cupping your head with your hands. Press your hands into your head and your head into your hands to help balance.
Press evenly into your forearms as you tuck your toes under and begin to walk your feet in towards your body. Bend one knee into your chest at a time, coming into that upside-down egg shape from before. Slowly start to straighten your legs, one at a time or at the same time for an extra challenge. When you're ready to come down, either lower one leg down at a time or come back into that egg shape and lower down to your toes.
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...