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Master This Move: Yoga Headstand

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You can rarely get through a yoga class these days without flipping upside down at least once. And inversions—like Plow, Shoulder Stand, Handstand—are great for you. (Find out How To Overcome Your Fear of Inversions.) Yes, they’re serious ab-sculptors (you have to keep your core engaged to avoid tipping over), but research also shows that regularly inverting can help your heart, ease back pain, make you feel calmer, and can put you in a meditative state.

“When you’re balancing your mind can’t be like “What am I gonna have for dinner?” whereas during a lot of other poses you can multitask,” says Tanya Boulton, a yoga teacher at PURE Yoga in New York City and co-founder of Tanya-B, a yoga lifestyle brand. Plus, just like with the last two exercises in our Master This Move series (The Chin-Up and The Turkish Get-Up), mastering a yoga headstand feels pretty badass.

“I think there’s an intimidation factor for many people when it comes to flipping upside down,” says Boulton. “What I always recommend is that beginners start up against a wall and double up a blanket, so that your neck is protected and it's not so intense on the arms.” When you’re up against the wall you have a “safety net” that allows you to build confidence. And soon, you’ll create that muscle memory and be able to do it without the wall. Your brain understands that if your body can balance two inches away from the wall, it can also do so in the middle of a room. “The wall also teaches you what muscles you need to engage in order to make that balance happen. You learn how to “steer the ship," says Boulton.

yoga headstand

A Get down on to all fours with knees directly under hips. Lower your forearms down to the mat, making sure shoulders are directly over elbows and in line with wrists and ankles, and grasp your biceps to ensure you have the proper alignment.

B Interlace fingers and place head in hands (where your hairline and forehead meet is where you want to place your head). Now, push your forearms down a lot. Lift your shoulders up, and push your head down.

Curl your toes under and straighten your legs. Walk your feet in until your hips are over your shoulders. Push your forearms down even more.

D Reach one leg up.

E Reach other leg to meet the other. Once you’re able to balance for longer than three seconds at a time, play with staying up for longer. Boulton says that some people hold the pose for up to five minutes, but you can get the benefits of inversions in much less time.

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