6 Tricks For Doing The Perfect Headstand
Updated: Jun 6, 2019
One of my favorite things to do when a client is struggling with self-confidence is to teach them how to do headstand. Sounds weird, right? Hear me out.
To do headstand one must trust in themselves and their body. They must find the courage to do something terrifying that they've never done before. And, they must be able to receive support and guidance from others. Practicing headstand is a perfect way to strengthen our confidence in ourselves and our ability to do challenging, scary things - and to ask for the help we need from others along the way.
Perhaps what I most love about teaching headstand is that is teaches us to trust our bodies, to listen to what's taken place inside of them, and to tap into feelings of confidence that suddenly has us feeling sensual in all the good ways.
So if you want to be a brave yogi and flip upside down without toppling over, well, you’re in luck. Today I’m teaching you how to do flip upside down with my 6 best tricks for doing a perfect headstand.
To achieve the perfect headstand one must conquer the fear of falling, trust their body, and learn the foundations of the posture. As much as I’d love to do all the heavy lifting for you, I can’t teach you how to trust your body or conquer your fears. That’s something you must navigate overtime as you wade through your own beliefs and limitations. It’s honestly the hardest part of learning yoga inversions - overcoming fear.
What I can teach you are the key techniques needed to do a strong, beautiful headstand as you work to conquer those fears and rebuild confidence in yourself and your body. Are you ready to shift your perspective and flip upside down with ease?
6 Tricks For Doing A Perfect Headstand
1. Do a keigel.
Yeah, the discreet muscle that Cosmo magazine loves to talk about for strengthening your vagina is hugely important when practicing headstand - and most yoga postures for that matter. A keigel flex is an engagement of your pelvic floor muscles. I love to explain the pelvic floor muscles as the muscles that keep you from peeing your pants. Squeeze them. Engaging your pelvic floor not only keeps you from peeing your pants on long car rides, it stabilizes your headstand. Your pelvic floor muscles are stabilizing muscles that help the body maintain balance in its movements. Go ahead and give it a try. Get up, yes right now, and do a one-legged balance pose like half moon without engaging your pelvic floor. Now, squeeze your pelvic floor muscles and try again. Did you notice a difference? Magic, I know.
2. Zip up your winter coat.
I can’t take credit for this cue. I don’t remember where I first heard it, but it is so freaking accurate. You know that weird movement we all do when we try to zip up our winter coats over a big sweater? Yeah, that one where you suck your belly in and draw your rib cage together. Well, it’s exactly what you want to do when you’re upside down in headstand. Whoever realized this is a hilarious, snow bunny genius and I love you.
Along with an engaged pelvic floor, we also need a strong, stable core to balance in headstand. To engage your core for headstand, you’ll need to engage the lower abs just beneath the belly button by drawing them in slightly. You’ll, then, need to take those same muscles and gently tuck them upwards as if they are trying to sneak beneath your ribs. I call this the “in and up” engagement. From there you’ll imagine that there is a line drawn down the center of your belly from your chest to your belly button and try to draw your ribs in towards that line. This is extra important because when the ribs splay out in headstand it sends the body into a banana shape that often ends in a back bend, or toppling over, exit. Ouch.
To review: Pelvic floor engaged. Belly in and up. Ribs in.
3. Lift up to ground down.
It seems counter-intuitive but the more you press into the floor and lift up towards the sky in headstand the more grounded you will be. Your body will move in the direction of force. If you are driving down with the weight of your body, you will crumble down to the ground. However, if you are driving upwards with the weight of your body, you will fly high into the sky.
To drive your weight skyward, you must press down into your forearms, press up with your shoulders, and pull up with your legs and feet. Keeping the elbows close together (about 6-10 inches apart) will allow you to ground down better and become more stable in your headstand.
4. Stop making your life hard.
With the 8 million images of headstand floating around Instagram with the yogi's legs straight up into the sky, everyone tries to do a straight up headstand right outta the gate. The truth is that by doing so, you’re just making your life hard. Headstand with legs straight up towards the sky is the most challenging headstand to achieve. This is because you have no counter balance other than driving down into your forearms and lifting up with your feet on the same plane. There are several headstand alternatives that are great for yogis who are still working on finding their strength and balance in the pose.
Here are my favorites:
Tuck Headstand: Draw your knees into your chest and hold the shape of a tiny ball. Overtime work to slowly unravel the ball. This creates a smaller, tighter center of gravity that is easier to balance.
Jack-knife Headstand: From the tuck headstand shape extend one leg straight up as you keep the other leg tucked in. Balancing this shape is the precursor to straight up headstand.
Wide-legged Pike Headstand (pictured above): This is one of my favorite headstands to practice. Enter into a tuck headstand, then extend the legs straight out, one on each side of the body. In this shape you’re able to maintain a low center of gravity AND access the counter balance of having one leg on either side of the body. As you tip one way you can counter by pressing out through the other leg.
5. Jumping is for trampolines.
When did everyone start leaping their way into headstand?! This is my least favorite thing to see. Leaping into headstand destabilizes the posture, places unnecessary pressure on the head and neck, and does nothing to teach us about how to use our muscles to enter headstand with a sense of control. My favorite headstand entrance for those just starting out is to begin in downward dog on forearms. From there, walk your feet in as close to your arms as you can and work to stack your hips up over your shoulders. The closer your hips come to stacking over top of your shoulders the more controlled your lift with be. From this shape draw one knee in towards your chest and lift up onto the tip toes of the foot still on the ground. If you do not have the ability to lift off from this shape, stop here and work on strengthening this shape. It’s hugely important for a safe, strong entrance into headstand. If it feels like you can continue on, gently lift the leg that’s still on the ground and tuck the knee into the chest to meet the other. You are now in a controlled tuck headstand.
Steady controlled breathing is crucial to doing a strong headstand. If you are holding your breath while in the pose, you won’t have the time to explore the posture and fine-tune your movements. Regulated breath also keeps the mind focused on the task at hand rather than drifting off to fearful thoughts of falling and other unhelpful thoughts. The style of breath I recommend for headstand is in and out through the nose at a long, slow tempo.
If you're a headstander who also struggles with handstand (I know, don’t we all!), I’ve got the perfect addition to your home yoga routine. Check out this Foundations of Handstand tutorial I put together just for you to help give your handstand practice the boost its been missing!
* Disclaimer: Brandy Oswald is not a medical provider and cannot give medical advice or provide any information concerning the diagnosis or treatment of any health condition. The information provided by Brandy Oswald and Do It Naturally is of a general nature and is intended only for educational purposes to help with your personal health improvement goals and should not be relied on as medical advice. Always consult a physician with any health concerns and prior to changing your diet, lifestyle, supplements, or prescription medicine routine. Should you choose to use the information provided by Brandy Oswald it is of your own volition and you recognize that neither Brandy nor Do It Naturally is not held liable for any intended or unintended outcomes.