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Prep for Headstand With These 5 Yoga Poses

Jillian Halliday
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Whether you are a seasoned yogi or a beginner, inversions or upside down yoga poses – like headstand – probably excite and scare the hell out of you. Although daunting at first, there’s something extremely liberating in trying, trying again, practicing . . . and finally nailing that inversion pose you’ve been working on for what feels like a lifetime.
 
Wondering why in the world you’d want to go upside down in the first place? Here are 10 Reasons to Do Inversions.
 
Physically, you feel ready – ready to grow into your inversion practice and finally take on the challenge of a headstand. But mentally, you can’t get past the image of your legs flailing wildly through the air before crashing down to the ground with a big, anything-but-graceful . . . THUD.
 
Odds are, you’re going to a take a tumble (or thirty) during the process of learning how to do Headstand Pose. However, the most important thing to understand with this practice is that you can’t fear failure. If “falling” is the only thing on your mind while practicing, it’s quite obvious what the universe is going to present you with – falling!
 
Interested in learning about the benefits of Headstand? Read All About Headstands & 7 Tips to Do Them Safely.
 
Instead, focus on succeeding. Imagine nailing that headstand. Make it the clearest thought in your head. Have courage in yourself and concentrate on reaching your goal. If you’re not too keen on the idea of throwing yourself upside down in the air using just the power of thought, there’s an easier way to accomplish this exhilarating inversion.
 

Prepare yourself for Headstand by practicing the five yoga poses below:

 
 

1. Downward Facing Dog

Downward Facing Dog is known to be one of the most restorative all-over stretches, as it stretches the shoulders, hamstrings, calves, arches of the feet, and the hands. It’s a fantastic pose to prepare for Headstand because it strengthens both the arms and legs.
 
Downward-Dog
 

How to Practice Downward Facing Dog:

  • Start on all fours with your hands slightly past your shoulders
  • Plant your palms, pressing actively through each fingertip
  • With your feet hip-width distance apart, tuck your toes and lift your hips up and back
  • Keep your knees bent at first to lengthen the spine, then straighten the legs as much as possible
  • Hold for ten breaths

 

Alignment Tips:

  • When starting on all fours, the creases in the wrist should be parallel to the top of the mat
  • If your spine is rounding, bend your knees generously
  • Send your gaze toward the toes or thighs

 
Looking for more tips on Downward Facing Dog and proper alignment? Watch our Down Dog Tutorial video.
 
 

2. High Plank

High Plank Pose is great for strengthening and toning the entire body. It develops core strength and stability. High Plank is an amazing pose to help prepare for Headstand because it strengthens the core and arms.
 
High-Plank
 

How to Practice High Plank Pose:

  • From Downward Dog, shift forward into the top of a push-up (shoulders stacked directly over wrists)
  • Your body should make one straight line like a plank of wood
  • Spread your fingers apart and press your fingertips and palms firmly into the mat
  • Engage your core strongly and lift your hips slightly as you draw your navel in towards the spine
  • Hold for ten breaths

 

Alignment Tips:

  • Keep the body in one straight line from shoulders to heels. Do not let the hips or butt sag
  • Keep the neck in line with the spine and gaze slightly just beyond the front of the mat
  • Keep a micro-bend in the elbows for increased strength and joint support

 

 

3. Cat Pose with Lifted Knees Variation

Cat Pose with Lifted Knees is a variation of Cat Pose that helps engage and ignite the core. It builds the strength you need to balance and stay upright during Headstand.
 
Cat-with-Lifted-Knees
 

How to Practice This Cat Pose Variation:

  • Find Tabletop Pose, with your hands and knees on the floor and toes tucked under
  • Arch your back so your spine curves upward while relaxing your head toward the floor
  • Tuck your tailbone
  • Press so firmly into your fingertips and toes that your knees lift off the mat
  • Hold for five breaths

 

Alignment Tips:

  • Keep your shoulders pressed away from the ears
  • Do not force your chin to your chest

 
 

4. Standing Wide-Legged Forward Fold

This Wide-Legged Forward Fold helps build strength in your legs and gives you the sensation of being upside down. It also stretches the hamstrings and helps open up the hips.
 
Wide-Legged-Fold
 

How to Practice Standing Wide Leg Forward Fold:

  • Take a four foot step into a wide straddle and slightly turn your toes inward
  • Fold at the hips while keeping your spine and legs straight
  • Place your hands on the mat directly beneath your shoulders
  • Begin to walk your hands back, bringing your wrists in line with your ankles, if possible
  • Bend at the elbows and bring your bodyweight forward into the balls of your feet
  • Hold for five breaths

 

Alignment Tips:

  • Option to bring a slight bend into the knees if the stretch feels too intense
  • Try different arm variations, like walking the hands in front of you for an extended Down Dog, or grab the ankles for a deeper stretch

 
 

5. Tripod Balance

Tripod Balance is a wonderful pose for strengthening both your shoulder and core muscles. It also helps to improve balance and will ultimately help prepare you for Headstand. Tripod is the first step towards a full Headstand. You’re getting close now!
 
Tripod-Balance
 

How to Practice Tripod Pose:

  • Find Table Pose and place the crown your head on the floor
  • Place your hands slightly in front of your face and out to the side, creating a shelf directly beneath your elbows
  • Tuck the toes and lift your knees off the ground
  • Place your right knee on your right tricep and your left knee on your left tricep
  • Hold pose for five breaths

 

Alignment Tips:

  • Hands should be shoulder-width distance apart and directly below your elbows
  • Be sure it’s the top of your head that’s planted to protect your neck
  • If it makes you feel more comfortable, do this with your back a few inches away from a wall for added support

 
Okay, now let’s give Headstand a go!
 
 

How to Practice Headstand

If you find yourself capable of steadily holding Tripod Balance for 10+ breaths, and feel confident enough to straighten the legs, you are ready to try Headstand!
 
Headstand-730
 

How to Practice Headstand Pose:

  • From your Tripod Balance, keep your knees on your triceps for a moment to find balance
  • Use your abdominal muscles to push the legs upward into the air and squeeze your thighs and knees together
  • Keep your gaze steady ahead focusing on one single point (moving your gaze might throw you off balance)

 

Alignment Tips:

  • Hips should be stacked over your shoulders and your ankles should be stacked over your hips
  • Keep your body in a straight line by engaging your core muscles
  • To exit the pose, keep the core engaged and slowly lower your legs down (option to come back through Tripod for an added strengthening challenge)

 
Important Note: If you still don’t feel confident enough to make your way into a freestanding Headstand, a great solution is to practice Headstand against a wall. Start with your Tripod Balance, except this time, do so approximately one foot away from the wall. Push your legs skyward using the techniques above and then rest your flexed feet against the wall behind you, as needed.
 
Need help preparing for other inversions? Try these 5 Yoga Poses to Prep for Inversions.
 
Usually, the holding and balancing in Headstand is the hardest part, so propping yourself against a wall will help you find balance with much more security. It will also help you learn and understand how your body will feel while balancing in this inversion.
 

Enjoy Your Journey to Headstand

Whether you’re new to the world of inversions or experienced in upside down yoga poses, always remember to listen to your body. Never judge yourself for not being where you would like to be in your practice. Instead, be grateful for all of your abilities and strengths.
 
Continually honor your body, find joy in the journey of practice and learning, and be proud of the progress you’ve made, no matter how big or small.
 

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Jillian Halliday

Jillian is a Business Administration and Management Graduate with a passion for all things health and wellness. Growing up, she learned natural and holistic ways for overall health and healing and has since continued to incorporate these practices into her everyday life. She’s an exercise junkie, book worm, creative writer, and yoga enthusiast.

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