Headstand is one of those poses that often looks effortless, almost enjoyable when you see a seasoned yogi in it. What doesn’t show is the amount of prep work, strength building as well as mobility work to get into that simple pose. One thing I try to stress to students is engagement through the shoulders.
When I was first attempting this pose, my yoga teacher explained that he calls it “Hair-stand,” because you shouldn’t be collapsing all your weight into your head, just the hair on the top of your head should be touching the ground.”
One of the best pieces of advice that I can give, is to not try to kick up until you have been building the strength in the body to feel comfortable doing so. I’ve seen people attempt this pose in classes before they’re ready, only to topple over and sometimes get hurt. I’ve also seen the opposite, where people who I know are strong enough but are holding back for the fear of falling! Such an complicated juxtaposition. So how do you know when you’re ready to come into this pose?
Here are some preliminary poses, that will show you if you have the strength built up to safely enter into your headstand.
-Boat Pose: Being able to feel comfortable and in control in this pose is a fabulous indication that you have the core strength necessary.
-Dolphin Pose: Being able to walk the feet in from a wide dolphin pose to a more narrow version, is a good test if your shoulders are mobile enough for headstand. Additionally, try lifting a leg in dolphin. If you collapse in the shoulders from this (ie; all the weight goes into your head), you’re probably not ready to try headstand.
Once you’ve built up the strength and flexibility you can try kicking up or tucking up from dolphin pose. If you’re going to kick up, keep the hips square, and try to keep the legs straight when they go up. Loss of control often means falling. If this still scares you, ask your favorite yoga teacher for help after class. Safety first!