The headstand yoga pose is nicknamed the king of asanas. As a full-inversion pose, it affects your cardiovascular, digestive, endocrine and lymph systems, in addition to your mind. While it is one of the first 12 poses taught in hatha yoga, and one of the most challenging, the challenge is worth the effort and yields many benefits.
Headstand yoga poses have a variety of physical benefits, due to their inverted nature. While this pose obviously improves balance, it also allows fresh blood to flow to your brain while gravity stimulates the blood return in your veins, giving your heart a rest. The headstand yoga pose also relieves pressure in your lower back and your lower body's veins, particularly those in your legs. Headstands also give your lungs a workout, making you breathe deeper.
As one of the most challenging yoga poses, it is very important that you do several things before even attempting this pose. First, check with your physician to make sure your body and nervous system can handle the challenge. (You may have to build up to the poses- which is perfectly fine.) Also, make sure your yoga instructor is certified, and ask any questions you need to before attempting the pose.
To achieve the headstand yoga pose, use an unfolded blanket or sticky mat to protect your head and forearms while you kneel on the floor. Interlace your fingers together and place your forearms on the floor, shoulder-width apart. Roll the upper arms slightly outward while pressing the inner wrists firmly into the floor.
Place the crown of your head on the floor. If you’re a beginner to headstand yoga poses, press the bases of your palms together and nestle the back of your head against your clasped hands. If you have more experience with this pose, open your hands and place the back of your head into the opened palms. Inhale deeply and lift your knees until they are off the floor. Carefully and slowly walk your feet closer to meet your elbows with your heels elevated. Lift through to the top of your thighs until you form and inverted “V.”
Making certain your shoulder blades are firm against your back, lift them toward your tailbone so the front torso is steady then hold as long as possible. This helps prevent the weight of your shoulders from collapsing onto your neck and head. Next, exhale deeply and lift your feet away from the floor. Allow your legs (or thighs if your knees are bent) to rise until they are perpendicular to the floor, and firm your tailbone against the back of your pelvis.
Turn your upper thighs slightly inward, and actively press your heels toward the ceiling and straighten the knees if you bent them to come up. The center of your arches should align over the center of your pelvis, which should then align over the crown of your head.
Firm your outer arms inward, and soften your fingers while continuing to press your shoulder blades against your back. Now widen your shoulder blades, and draw them in toward your tailbone, keeping your weight evenly balanced on your forearms. It is also very important that your tailbone continues to lift upward toward your heels. Once the back of your legs are fully lengthened through your heels, maintain this length and press up through the balls of your big toes so the inner part of your legs are slightly longer than the outer.
Voila! You’ve achieved a headstand yoga pose!
If you’re new to the practice, only hold the pose for 10 seconds, gradually adding time in 5 to 10 second increments until you can comfortably hold the pose for 3 minutes. Once you’ve mastered 3 minutes every day for one to two weeks, or until you feel comfortable in the pose, you can then gradually increase the time in 5 to 10 second increments until you can hold the pose comfortably for a full 5 minutes. Release the headstand yoga pose by exhaling without losing the lift of the shoulder blades, making sure both feet touch the floor at the same time. Namaste!