The headstand is like climbing to the mountaintop when it comes to yoga. Maybe it’s not the highest and instagram flashiest mountain, like Pincha or Press Handstand, but it is still a mountain, and there is a sense of elation and pride when it is achieved. If this is already in your arsenal, congratulations! If you have been building your strength and you feel ready to make this upside down climb, here is a map to help you achieve your goal.
I like to use the mountain climbing analogy because Sirsasana is not achieved or climbed in one day. So enjoy the process. Take pride in each level you achieve. Listen to your body and know when it’s time to slow down or take a rest. Mountain climbers “make camp” each night. They know when it’s time to stop. Your body does too!
Sirsasana requires solid core engagement as well as upper body strength and balance. If you’ve read my previous post on breath you already understand the power of the “shush”. Strongly vocalizing this sound automatically engages the whole abdomen. You want this sensation as you move into the pose.
Let’s talk about the arms. You would think you would want wide arms, like a tripod for a camera sets the legs out wide from the center to find balance, right? The shoulders are tricky things. They have great mobility, moving in 6 directions, but in some positions they are markedly stronger than in others. We’re not designed to walk on our hands, so your shoulders are bearing a LOT of weight in this position. Proper engagement of the shoulder blades into the back are the key to a solid base.
It’s important to also note that while this pose is called HEADSTAND, you want as little actual weight on your head as possible. The weight is 80% in the arms and shoulders, with the core lifting up and in to keep you “light”.
- Keep your elbows in line with your shoulders, find a little “cat like spine” as you curl down to place your forearms onto the mat.
- OPT: interlace your fingers to create a little “cradle” for the crown of your head, thumbs pointing up for a little extra support.
- Press into your forearms, magnetizing the elbows toward each other. Remember, this is where the support is coming from!
- Curl the toes under, pull in your abdominals (shush!) and send your bootie up to the sky. Begin to straighten the legs.
- If it feels ok, begin to walk the feet in closer to the head, the hips moving higher.
- Find the place where you feel SENSATION. You are building strength right here!
- Keep the mind quiet. Keep pressing the arms through your mat.
- Continue to walk the feet closer to the head until you feel your hips over your shoulders.
- KEEP PULLING IN YOUR CORE!
- Walk until you are pulling in so much you are on your tip toes.
- You will begin to feel a sensation of “there is nowhere left to go” but to let your knees draw into the body. (This is a pretty fun moment when you feel it. Don’t skip this step!)
*It’s important to note here that this is when you may feel the desire to “kick up” into a headstand. Yes, that is an option, however, in the process of kicking up you are activating the leg and foot muscles, which makes it more likely you will disengage the abdominals, and you need those. And if your core is not active you are likely to come spilling down the mountainside. Whoopsies! Enjoy this moment. You are halfway there.
- This is your shortest layover. It almost feels like “letting” your knees come into the body.
- Keep pressing your arms, and magnetizing them together. Hold that core!
- Send your energy from the mat up through the toes and begin to straighten the legs. What you energetically send you will receive back into the body. And then…Voila! You made it!
Now that you are there, enjoy the view. Yoga is the union of the body to the mind. Inversions are about a “new perspective”. How does the world look to you turned upside down? Can you stay calm and still from a new point of view?
In the physical body, Sirsasana works with gravity to decrease how hard your heart has to work to bring blood from the feet, legs and pelvis back to the heart, and increases the flow of blood to your head, where your beautiful brain gets flooded with oxygenated blood, boosting mental clarity. Yoga high!
Want to go further? It’s time to really play! Practice splitting your legs, or alternate toe tapping the ground for some extra ab and glute work, or really play with your balance by finding Garudasana (Eagle) legs. There’s always another journey to take in your yoga practice. Always.
Special thanks to my 5:30 Wednesday Power Flow Dfliers for inspiring this post, and for always showing up with a willingness to explore and play, and for sharing your strength and focus with me.
From my heart, Anna
Don’t forget to check out my upcoming Yoga Retreat in Punta Cana!