Inversions can be an amazing addition to your practice, but trying them before you’re ready is never advised. It’s something that can quickly lead to injury…which in turn, can make you more hesitant to practice them in the future. Before trying any inversion for the very first time, it’s vital to take the time to ensure proper alignment and prepare your body and mind for what’s to come. Learning headstand can be one of the most rewarding postures you’ll ever master, but it does require a bit of preparation.
The Benefits of Headstand
Headstand (Sirsasana) is known as the king of yoga poses because of the many benefits this posture contains. It not only increases blood flow to the brain offering increased oxygen and the nutrients necessary for healthy brain function, but also relieves stress, increases focus, flushes adrenals, decreases the build-up of fluid in the legs, ankles, and feet, while increasing arm, shoulder, and core strength. It’s also a posture that can reverse the physical signs of aging. Practicing headstand also helps expel toxins from the body by stimulating the lymphatic system.
With such a vast array of benefits, it’s no wonder so many are ready to conquer the king of yoga poses. Not properly preparing for headstand, however, can cause injury and put a serious strain on the neck and shoulders.
Poses to Practice Before You Begin
Before moving into headstand, there are a few key poses to master before you begin. Working on holding the downward dog and a forearm plank for several minutes each can offer the arm and shoulder strength necessary to hold yourself up in headstand. They also ensure you have properly aligned your body, making it easier to correctly align yourself when the time comes for this classic inversion.
Tree pose is another posture that can prepare you to move into headstand properly. Seeing that tree pose is simply the “right-side up” version of headstand, becoming as comfortable and stable as possible in this pose can prepare you for its inverted opposite. When you can find balance standing on one leg with your arms over your head, you can find a very similar balance to what it is like when standing on your head in virtually the same position.
Dolphin pose is another excellent preparation for headstand. Not only does it help immensely with the upper arm and shoulder strength, but is great for strengthening those core muscles that you’ll need to keep proper alignment in headstand.
When NOT to Practice Headstand
The importance of practicing headstand while aligned properly cannot be stressed enough. When not performed correctly, you risk damaging the cervical spine. Those with cervical disk issues are typically advised against moving into headstand. People who have eye problems such as glaucoma should also avoid headstand due to increased blood flow to the eyes. People with certain heart conditions are also advised to avoid headstand.
Anyone who has had a serious back injury should take precaution when deciding on adding headstand to their regular practice. Any person who has suffered injuries to their neck should avoid moving into headstand, sticking to simple inversions such as legs-up- the-wall.
Properly Preparing and Moving Deeper into Your Practice
If you feel you are physically capable and you’re ready to take your practice to another level by working on moving into headstand, properly preparing is extremely important. Before trying headstand at home on your own, having the assistance of a trained yoga professional can help tremendously. With someone there to guide you as you make your way upside down, any fear you might be feeling tends to dissolve.
Feeling called to move deeper into your practice by practicing headstand is something to listen to. Those who have been practicing yoga for a while and have a solid understanding of their comfort level and stability while practicing other asanas will typically have an idea of whether or not they’re ready to move into this delightfully beneficial posture.
While we do offer a headstand tutorial in our online Lilyfit classes, we always recommend a student gets help from a qualified instructor before trying them on their own. Once you’ve got some experience practicing the pose, we are then happy to offer some in-depth discussion and instruction on headstand.