Spotting weird carpet stains isn’t the only benefit of doing headstands regularly. You can also strengthen your arms, legs, and core and reenergize during a slump in your day or evening. “When you get upside down, the increased blood flow gives you a boost,” says yoga instructor Sara Ivanhoe from Yoga Works in Santa Monica, California. Here, she suggests some inversions that will help you gradually build up to a full headstand.
1. Half Headstand
Get on all fours and place your elbows on the floor, shoulder-distance apart. Interlace your fingers, with your forearms flat against the floor, and put the crown of your head into the nook created by your hands. Lift your heels and walk your feet toward your elbows, keeping your back flat, so you form an inverted V.
2. Bent-knee Headstand
Facing a wall, position yourself on all fours about a shin’s length away from it and lower your elbows, shoulder-width apart, to the floor. Interlace your fingers and put the crown of your head into the nook created by your hands. Then, lift your heels and walk your feet toward your elbows until your hips are directly above your shoulders, forming a vertical line from the top of your head to the tip of your tailbone. You should be up on your tiptoes and may need to bend your knees slightly. Facing away from the wall now, you lift your knees into your chest and bring your legs (with knees still bent) up over your head until your toes touch the wall. Your legs should be at a 90-degree angle, bent at the knee, with shins parallel to the floor. Keep your shoulders drawn away from your ears and your core tight. Hold for up to 25 breaths. To come down, bring your knees back into your chest and then down to the floor. Finally, rest in child’s pose for at least five breaths.
3. Full Headstand
From the bent-knee headstand, straighten your legs, bringing your feet toward the ceiling. Remember to keep your shoulders pulled toward your pelvis to protect your neck. Tighten your core, with your tailbone slightly drawn under so you can balance without over-arching your lower back.
From downward dog, place your elbows and forearms on the floor. Keep your hips up toward the ceiling, with your back straight and most of your weight on your feet (to keep pressure off your upper body). Bend your knees slightly for comfort.
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