When I was introduced to Yoga 7 years ago, the yoga posture I knew I needed to achieve was the 'king of asanas' - The Headstand.
I joined a special 3 hour yoga workshop, where the focus was: Introduction to inversions ('upside down yoga postures'). There, after 1.5 hours of yoga practice I did my first Tripod headstand, and 30 minutes after that I managed to do my first real headstand:) Since that day my ambitions have been to do them daily - but work/kids/life fills soo much, that I only get to do it very rarely.
Standing on your head in proper alignment not only strengthens the whole body but calms the brain.
This full inversion returns blood to the heart and the brain, refreshing the cardiovascular and lymphatic system and providing energising effects for the whole body. Those who engage in spiritual yoga practice may use this asana to redirect sexual energies into a higher spiritual energy, which is thought to increase wellness and promote a positive aura. Not only does this pose offer mental clarity and renewed energy, it is also thought to help increase memory and concentration over time.
Contradictions&Caution: Headstands should not be practised by people with neck problems, headache or migraine, high blood pressure, heart disease, menstruation or pregnancy.
Benefits: Calms the brain and helps relieve stress and mild depressions, stimulates the pituitary and pineal glands, strengthens the arms, legs, spine and the core, tones the abdominal organs and strengthens the lungs, improves digestion, works therapeutically against asthma, infertility, insomnia and sinusitis.
Headstand is a yoga posture which is not recommended for beginners. With that in mind - here are some of my tips which I would focus on when introducing this asana to your practice.
1. Build up the upper body and core strength. Practice the Dolphin pose to prep for the headstand - this posture helps build up the muscles used when doing headstands. - To practice the Dolphin pose - come down to all four placing your forearms on the mat interlacing your palms. On the Inhalation come out towards a forearm plank - on the exhalation: forearm downward facing dog - repeat this practice to build up the upper body and core muscles.
2. Learn proper Hand placement and Shoulder position. You should imagine you’re holding a tennis ball between your palms and place the crown of your head at the base of your palms right at the wrist crease. To practice this, kneel on the floor and find the proper hand placement - Next step is the shoulder position - engage your scapula and press the tops of your shoulders down away from your ears as you engage your shoulder blades. This is how your shoulder girdle should feel when you’re upside down. The majority of your weight should be on your forearms and not on your head.
3. Using the wall for support. Starting position - forearm downward dog - positioning yourself to lift your lower body from the ground. Place your head in the right position and tuck your toes under to lift your lower body. Have your arms and head about 10 cm from a wall and start to walk your feet in as close as you can so your hips come over your shoulders. You will almost feel like you’re going to topple forward but you won’t, as long as you’re pressing firmly into your forearms and outer wrists and engaging your core. From this position, slowly work on lifting your knees up into your armpits and letting your lower back come to the wall. Press firmly into your elbows and start to walk the legs up the wall until they are straight. To come out of the pose, it is important to slowly bring your knees back into your chest and lower the feet to the floor.
When you are ready to take your legs off of the wall and try to find your midline. You want to use your legs actively and lift them up to the ceiling as you keep engaging your core muscles. Once you feel strong enough at the wall, work on practising headstand in the center of the room but only when and if you are ready. You can always ask a friend to support you, and you can also somersault out of the pose if needed. Try not to kick up into headstand, but control the ascent—this will make you stronger in your core and prevent you from injury.