Want to master the yoga headstand? Step 1: Don’t be intimidated. This easy-to-follow guide will help you turn your world upside down (and not face-plant in the process).
‘The headstand is probably one of the most Instagrammed yet misunderstood yoga poses of them all,’ says yoga instructor Anastasia Dellis.
‘Many people feel it looks impressive, so they give it a go and end up hurting themselves. Others are scared and don’t try.’
In other words, don’t be – you got this. Here’s everything you need to know.
The headstand, or Salamba Sirsasana, is not simply an exercise, says Goa and London-based yoga instructor, Ravi Dixit. ‘There are many benefits – mental, physical and spiritual.’
‘This pose changes the behaviour of gravity in the body. The abdominal organs press against the diaphragm which expels carbon dioxide out of the body. This asana also increases circulation to the upper body.’
It has been known to help decrease anxiety too, he adds. ‘A lot of people find that practising this posture for long periods can calm their energies so they feel more connected to their bodies.’
There are also plenty of muscle-building benefits, says personal trainer, Lavina Mbete MBE.
‘It’s incredible for building core strength and stability – the deep core, or transverse abdominis will really have to switch on to support the spine.’
You’ll also be working the shoulders, arms, especially the biceps, and upper back.
But don’t just dive in. ‘It’s an advanced yoga posture and should be practised safely, preferably under the guidance of a qualified yoga teacher,’ Dellis says.
Depending on your strength and flexibility, it could take you a while to master the move, so make it a long-term goal.
AVOID IF: You’ve injured your upper body, have a heart condition or high blood pressure, or you’re pregnant or menstruating.
Tips for doing a headstand
Ease into it, says Dellis. ‘You need to work up to a headstand – start by holding these two moves for a full minute, several times a week,’ she suggests.
Get on to your forearms and hold the plank position. Try improving your balance by lifting one leg at a time
From a high plank, lift your hips up so that your body forms a triangle. Now lower your forearms to the floor, keeping the triangle shape.
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Now for the real thing: how to do a headstand
Safety first: Dixit suggests using a wall or have someone standing by to support you. Also, focus – be aware of your body and your environment.
And if you fall? ‘Try not to tense your body,’ Dixit says. Easier said then done, but if you can, stay loose if you take a tumble, he says – this is one of the best ways to prevent injury.
You ready? Let’s get to it.
- Get in plank as before, but interlace your fingers, leaving space between your palms.
- Lightly place the top of your head on the floor and press the back of your head against your hands. Lift your knees and walk forward until your hips are above your shoulders.
- And lift off! Raise (don’t kick) your legs up. Engage your muscles, activate your legs and core and stretch up through your heels. ‘Don’t allow your neck to bend or put too much pressure on your head,’ says Ravi. ‘Your forearms are your pillar.’ In other words, they are what is supporting your weight – not your head.
- And breathe. Job done
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Kirsti Buick Kirsti is Women’s Health’s Junior Fitness Editor, a personal trainer and WH’s resident tech junkie.
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