I Should Go Do Yoga….To Prep for Headstand
Ahhh headstand, the king of postures. There are a lot of elements which go into a good headstand; not least of which is learning how to face your fear of being upside down. However, once you’ve built the right strength in the shoulders & the core, the rest should come with time & practice.
Here are my top prep-poses for headstand; practice these daily to build up the strength & muscle-memory required. Scroll down to the bottom to see some do’s & don’ts for when you progress into the final posture!
Lay on your back with your legs up in the air. Press your lower back in to the floor, engaging your lower abdominals to hug the belly in (imagine you’re trying to fit on a tight pair of jeans!). Keep your hands by your sides (rather than tucked under your hips or buttocks) & exhaling, lower your feet to 45 degrees. Keep your legs straight & your lower back flat to the floor. If you can’t keep your lower back on the floor, then bend your knees or do one leg at a time. As your core strength increases, build up from there.
Inhale & lift the legs, exhale & lower (repeat 10-15 times)
Come to all fours, with your wrists under your shoulders & your knees under your hips. Tops of the feet flat to the floor. Inhale & press the floor away from you like you’re trying to lift your chest further away from the floor & press up between the shoulder blades. Exhale & allow the chest to lower but keeping the arms straight. It will be a slight movement in the shoulders. Continue for 10-15 rounds.
Now come down onto the forearms & repeat. This ‘pressing away’ movement is what you want to keep in mind in the shoulders when you’re in your headstand.
From all fours, walk your hands out to the top of the mat. Spread your fingers & engage your arms so they’re straight, squeezing the elbows in towards each other. Press the shoulders into their sockets (like the dipping down movement we just did on all-fours) and roll the upper arms outwards. Tuck the toes under & lift the hips up and backwards. Allow the chest to press back towards the thighs. Keep the knees soft (bent) & alternate pressing one heel and then the other down into the mat.
Bring the feet hip distance apart, bend the knees and allow the belly to rest onto the thighs. Let the back of the neck be long & the top of the head heavy. You can hold on to opposite elbows & rock side to side here or nod the head yes / shake it no to release anything in the upper back / shoulders. Breathe into the lower back & backs of the legs for 5-10 breaths. The looser your hamstrings, the easier it will be to walk the feet in & get the hips over the shoulders in prep for your headstand.
Plank & Forearm Plank
Come into a plank position. Make sure you’re pressing the floor away from you, lifting between the shoulder-blades & keep the shoulders, hips & heels in a straight line. Engage the core & don’t allow the belly to bulge, press back through the heels & engage the thighs, lifting the kneecaps. Hold & breathe for as long as you can.
Progress to a forearm plank, & move between the two for 10-15 reps.
From your forearm plank, start to walk your feet closer to your face & lift your hips high into the air. Keep your chest pressing back towards the back of the mat & your neck relaxed. The aim is to get the hips & high over the shoulders as possible (hence the need for loose hamstrings!). Bear the weight on the forearms & keep thinking of that ‘pressing away’ action with the shoulders.
To progress, try a few dolphin push ups, dropping your nose towards the floor (keeping the legs straight & the hips lifted to the sky). Press down through the elbows to lift yourself back into dolphin. Try 5-10.
After your dolphin, rest in Child’s pose for a few breaths. Then come to kneeling & take eagle arms on both sides. Bend the right elbow under the left & keeping the upper arms crossed, bring the backs of the hands together, or if you can, your right fingers into your left palm. Keep the tops of the shoulders relaxed, & away from the ears, & lift the elbows & hands upwards until you find the stretch between the shoulder blades. Try to keep your forearms in a straight vertical line. Breathe for 5-10 breaths and then change sides.
So now you’re prepped and ready for your headstand!
Start with the very top of the head on the floor, with the hands grasping the back of the head nice and tight. Ensure your elbows aren't too wide - you want them to be as close to the head as possible Walk your feet as close to your face as possible and squeeze one heel in to the buttock. Squeeze the lower belly and tuck the other foot in tight, suck the lower belly in and up and find your balance. Ensure your elbows are holding most of the weight by pressing them firmly into the ground, drawing your shoulders away from your ears (think that ‘pressing away’ action we practised in our prep!). Slowly extend your legs upwards, keeping that shoulder engagement!
• Ever kick up into headstand, you could jar your neck and injure yourself
• Try to balance all your weight on your head
• Have the forehead, or the back of the head on the floor
• Allow your shoulders to hunch up to your ears
• Be afraid! Practice with a wall behind you for support, but don't kick up to the wall!
• Forget to breathe when you're up there!
• Stay up so long that you get tired or lose focus and fall, instead make sure you have enough strength to come out of it before you get tired
• Forget to take child's pose after practising an inversion!
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