Want to Stand on Your Head? A Yoga Sequence to Get You There
Headstand is really intimidating if you've never attempted it before, but if you've always longed to stand on your head, here's a series of yoga poses to get you there. Don't worry if it scares you to go upside down. This sequence will build up your strength and courage. If you practice these poses regularly in this order, you'll feel ready (and excited!) to invert.
Wide-Legged Forward Fold
I'm a big supporter of walking into headstand rather than jumping into it. This not only prevents you from kicking too hard and falling over, but it also strengthens your core. Flexible hamstrings are key to walking into headstand, so start with this Wide-Legged Forward Bend. This pose will also open your shoulders.
Stand with three to four feet between your feet. Turn your toes in slightly and interlace your fingers in a double fist behind your back. Inhale to engage your abs and pull your hands away from your shoulders. Exhale to fold at your hips, keeping your legs and spine straight. Hold for five deep breaths, trying to lower your hands toward the floor.
Walking into headstand also requires strong abs. Boat Pose is all about your core.
Sit on the floor, bend your knees, and pick your feet off the floor. Sit with a straight spine and straighten your legs as much as you can before your back begins to round. Extend your arms out in front and hold for five deep breaths.
This pose will strengthen your core as well as your upper body.
From Down Dog, lower onto your forearms and walk your feet out. Your body should be in one straight line with your shoulders directly above your elbows. Hold Dolphin Plank for five breaths, but if it's too difficult, lower one or both knees to the floor.
Now you're ready to try the easiest version of headstand. Since your hands and head are on the floor, the greater surface area helps you stay balanced. If it hurts your head, fold your mat up, making sure your head and hands are on the same thickness of mat.
Sit on your knees and place your head and hands on the mat. Your hands should be directly underneath your elbows, not in line with your head. If you're doing it right, you should be able to see your hands in front of you. Straighten your legs and place your right knee on your right tricep and do the same with your left knee. Bring your feet together. Hold here for five deep breaths. If you're feeling ready, start to use your abs to lift your knees off your arms. Lift a few inches, and then lower them back to your triceps — this is a killer move for your core.
Bound Headstand Prep: Straight Legs
Now you're ready to learn the prep poses for Bound Headstand.
Come to sit so your back is a few inches away from a wall. Interlace your fingers and tuck your bottom pinky in front. Place your hands and the top of your head on the floor so your palms are cupping the back of your head. Lift your knees off the floor and straighten your legs. Walk them toward your face as much as you can, trying to shift the weight of your hips over your shoulders. Hold here for five deep breaths.
Bound Headstand Prep: Tuck
This prep pose will really strengthen your core and upper body.
From that position, bend one knee and tuck it into your chest. Hold for one breath and then switch sides. Then try shifting your hips even further over your shoulders, tucking both knees into your chest, and hold for five breaths. To challenge your core, practice lifting your knees a few inches and then lowering them. At this time, if you feel ready to lift both legs up into Bound Headstand, go for it. If not, continue reading for the next step.
Bound L-Headstand Against a Wall
Using a wall gives you the support you need to work on headstand without the fear of falling.
From the previous position with both legs straight and your feet on the floor, step both feet onto the wall, walking them up so your thighs are parallel with the floor. Keep your legs straight to increase flexibility in your hamstrings and lower back, and draw your navel toward your spine to work your abs. Holding here for five breaths will allow your upper body to feel what it's like to hold headstand. This pose might look easy, but you'll really feel your upper body burning after holding for a while, which is exactly what you want.
One-Legged Bound Headstand Against a Wall
Here's a one-legged version against the wall that will further strengthen your upper body and open tight hamstrings.
With both feet on the wall, slowly lift one leg into the air, keeping the other foot pressing against the wall. Be careful not to lift your leg past your head or you might lose your balance. Hold here for five breaths, lower your top leg, and then switch.
You've made it! Now you're ready to try the full expression of the pose.
Sit facing the wall. Place your clasped fingers and head on the floor about eight inches or so away from the wall. Straighten your legs and walk your feet toward your head. Bend one knee and tuck it into your chest. Using your abs and hamstring flexibility, lift your other leg off the floor so both knees are tucked into your chest, so you're in the pose called Bound Headstand Prep: Tuck. With complete control, slowly lift and straighten both legs up, coming into Bound Headstand. If balancing is hard, bend one knee and place the sole of your foot on the wall. Hold for five breaths. Then slowly bend your knees into your chest, lower your feet to the floor, and rest in Child's Pose.