Many of us yogis aspire to being able to effortless invert ourselves upside down with the grace and ease of a swan on a lake. A quick flick through instagram exposes us to snapshots of success with very little sweat…looks easy enough right? What you don’t see is the hours of full body strengthening and prep work that each practitioner put in over the last few YEARS (yes often – this long!) to make this stuff happen in a smooth fashion! I came to yoga as a keen gym bean but was constantly stumped by the dedication and body awareness that I soon realised, yoga was going to demand from me if I was to ever get my bum in the air! As I see it, you then have two choices to make when you hear that something you want is going to take time:
- throw your hands in the air, sit on the couch and complain that it is too hard and it will never be possible, or…
- be inspired by the challenge and the long road ahead – enjoy the journey and get excited about the destination! You may even learn more than you think!
I would say that my earliest error in thinking was that my efforts put into improving life upside down would be best spent going upside down more. Obviously, yes you are going to need to spend a portion of your time upside down but actually, the more foundational work you do before hand and the stronger your stomach, shoulders and back are – the easier the upside down work will be. Hence why gymnasts and dancers often develop an advanced yoga practice rather quickly…they already have this in place.
Start Your Headstand Journey!
So here are 5 starting blocks for your headstand journey, only ONE of which is an actual headstand and I would suggest that you ONLY do this when you feel that your upper body and arms are strong enough to support you. If you feel unsure or under confident then I would only do in the presence of an experienced yoga teacher or gymnast. The name is misleading; you should not feel an unbearable amount of weight in your head, or any discomfort in your neck or back.
5 Exercises to Get You Upside Down!
Balancing in any posture is easier if you can move into it without momentum or any jump from the floor. In order to move into headstand smoothly you need to be able to stack your hips above your shoulders with your feet on the floor. In order to be able to do this bone stacking, you need an element of flexibility in your hamstrings and lower back. Here are three yoga postures that you can do before any upside down work to ease your entry!
You Want More? Strenthen That Core!
Here are some reverse curls that teach you how to contract your body into a little ball and then extend outwards maintaining core activation…everything that a headstand demands of your body! When you do this try to squeeze your thighs together and try to peel your pelvis off the mat as you squeeze your knees into your chest. As you extend away, keep ribs squeezing together and downward whilst drawing up your lower abs to avoid any arching in the lower back. Here are three levels starting with the easiest and working your way up to advanced.
Beginner: 2 x 10
Intermediate: 3 x 15
Advanced: 3 x 20
TOP TIP: If you notice your knees are coming apart then place your credit card between your knees and don’t let it drop!
Strengthen Back Plank to Down Dog
The biggest muscles in our back are our lats (latamus dorsi if you want to be all fancy ;)) and these take a lot of the stress if we make them nice and strong. This exercise is designed to wake them up and strengthen them. Bar work such as pull ups, hangs or pull downs are also good for these muscles but this will do the job if you prefer to train at home.
We now start to get close to an exercise that resembles are headstand! Static holds of this posture are great (take some nice long slow breaths here) and we can also do this little dolphin dives for extra fun 😉 We want to think when we are going up in our headstand that our arms are doing all the work, your forearms should be pressing with everything they have into the floor…like a rocket waiting for lift off!!!
Slow Tucks with Wall Behind - Actual Headstand
Getting into the pose without a jump makes balancing this pose SO much easier! So, once you have the stability and strength in the shoulders and back and the flexibility in the back of your legs then you can attempt this. As you pull on knee into your chest, use your stomach muscles to hug the leg so tightly to your body that your leg doesn’t come down again. If you don’t feel confident extending then you can keep your knees tucked into your chest and your toes pointing to the ceiling. As you extend upwards, the centre of gravity moves away from the floor making it harder to balance. Moving slow gives you the best opportunity to make the balance work. If you end up with your toes hitting the wall behind then still try to do a slow controlled lower as this path down will one day help you find the stable path up! Keep pressing down throughout with your forearms. If you feel any discomfort in your neck or back then stop immediately and avoid all together if any neck or back issues.
The Journey Can Be Long & Frustrating By Yourself!
The body takes time to adapt to new challenges and so you must be patient and trust that your body wants to be super strong for you. Working with a teacher or going to yoga classes to meet other yogis can help keep you motivated. Also, challenges that you are having may be worked through quite quickly with some feedback from someone who can help you make positive improvements! I noticed when I had 1 to 1 lessons years ago how fast I improved in a short period of time. Furthermore, I got 3 times as much from the classes I was attending. If you are interested in getting some help with your yoga practice or starting a yoga practice then please contact us here…we would love to help you on your journey.
Let Us Help!
If you would like any help or support getting started or staying motivated with Yoga or Fitness then let us know. We help people all over Warwickshire get motivated and STAY motivated. Working out consistently over time is the only thing that works so it is important that you enjoy what you do and have fun on your fitness journey!
Have a wonderful week,
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