The Headstand is often considered to be ‘the king of all asana’. And like a king, there are certain procedures you have to follow to gain this almighty position – although once you’re there, the power is all yours!
However, balancing gracefully on your head takes time, extreme focus and guidance – therefore get a qualified instructor to guide you before you decide to head ‘down under’!
Benefits of The Headstand
Where do we start? Inverted asanas (Headstand and Shoulder Stand) invigorate and energize the body because they reverse the action of gravity and blood flow from the feet to the head. Physically, this improves circulation through, and reduces the pressure from, the heart, lungs and veins – improving your overall health and even reducing those pesky varicose veins.
The Headstand pose also aids digestion as the pituitary gland (the mighty regulator of digestion and hormones) is stimulated whenever you’re upside down and it helps to regulate other glands in the body including thyroid, pineal, adrenals and the production of sexual hormones – yes, that interested us too!
Inverted poses such as the Headstand also turn emotional levels on their head, as your brain is nourished with fresh blood, oxygen and nutrients which, in turn, helps to reduce stress and anxiety whilst improving concentration, memory and confidence.
How to Master The Headstand
Alignment is key because of the weight you put on your head and shoulders. Never rush into this pose – take your time to adjust and come into the position with control. Remember, patience is a virtue!
Get down on your mat and kneel on the backs of your feet. Come down onto your forearms and place your elbows shoulder width apart with your wrists firmly pressed into the floor.
Interlace your fingers and place your head between your hands and the crown of your head on the floor. Your head should now be against your clasped hands.
Come off your knees and straighten your legs with the balls of your feet or toes still planted on the mat. If you’re new to the Headstand, stay in this Half Headstand position to get used to the feeling of being upside down – remember to only attempt the full pose under the watchful eyes of a yoga instructor.
If you’re comfortable to proceed, things are about to get interesting! The next step is to slowly walk your feet forward, one by one, until gravity takes hold and they eventually lift off the ground. If you’ve attempted this pose a few times however haven’t mastered getting your feet off the ground, this method is better than kicking your feet up, as it’s a natural transition.
From here, your inner core strength really comes into play as you lift your bent knees above you. Once you’ve got your balance straighten your legs above and voila – you’re in the king asana.
Beginners to this pose should stay in the Half Headstand or Headstand for 10 seconds and then gradually add 5-10 seconds to your daily practice. If you feel comfortable, gradually work your way up to 3 minutes.
To come out of the pose, reverse the steps you took to get into the position with control, and then lower both feet on the ground. Come into child’s pose.
Health Risks Associated With The Headstand
The Headstand is cited as being the main cause of yoga related injuries; therefore you should always get into the position slowly and make any necessary adjustments.
Although, even when practiced safely, people suffering from high blood pressure, glaucoma, have a history of neck or shoulder injuries or women during their menstruation should also avoid the pose.
There are plenty of alternatives you can try if you’re unable to get into the full Headstand – so don’t worry if it’s not for you! Have you tried a full or half Headstand? If so, do you feel any of these benefits when you practice the pose?