Finding variety in your inversions will help you develop your core, your balance and your focus in a way you never thought possible. It’s time to play around being upside down!
Here are four fun variations of Headstand (Sirsasana) for you to try on your mat. New to Headstand? No problem. Just practice about six inches away from a wall to catch you if you fall.
Helpful Headstand Tips:
- Make sure your hands are cradling the back of your skull and your arms are bent at 90 degrees.
- Elbows are shoulder-width apart and NOT wider. Don't let them slide apart.
- The crown of your head should be on the floor, NOT the forehead or the hairline.
- Shoulders are kept away from the ears, NOT shrugged.
- Maintain your drishti (your soft, focused gaze) on one spot only and keep the space between your eyebrows relaxed.
- Your mind’s focus should stay on your core, and maintaining stability from the head to the navel.
- Smile! Enjoy the lift and know that you might fall and that’s OK. Just try to do so safely, keeping your neck protected by pushing your weight into your forearms.
1. Traditional Headstand
Start on your hands and knees and place your forearms on the floor. Grab your opposite elbows with your hands and then release the hands to interlace your fingers in front of you. Tuck the bottom pinky in front of the top pinky knuckle. Maintain the distance the same between your elbows and separate your wrists without unlocking the fingers. Place the crown of your head on the ground and grab the back of your head, cupping with it with your hands.
Lift your knees off the ground, coming into a modified Downward Dog. Support your head with your hands and walk your feet toward your face while actively pressing the floor away from you with your forearms.
Bring one knee into your chest and then lift the pelvis up causing the legs to naturally lift off the ground. You may need to do a slight hop, but don't jump too intensely because you may tip over. Bring the other knee into toward your chest so that the hips line up right above the head.
Start to slowly lift the legs together at the same time. Keep your core activated and your breath regular.
2. Happy Headstand
Once you are in a traditional Headstand, separate your legs until you feel they are parallel to the floor. Flex your toes toward the ground and engage your legs. Keep your eyes fixed on one spot and start playing with bringing your legs back up slowly and gracefully.
Optional drill: Keeping your legs straight, lower your legs down again so that your toes almost touch the floor and right before they do, bring them back up slowly again. Do this 3-to-5 times with your breath in sync.
3. Half Lotus Headstand
From Headstand, bend your right leg and externally rotate the left leg to place the foot on top of your right hip. Shimmy your left ankle until it is in the crease of the right hip. Keep pressing down into your forearms to maintain your balance.
Hold here for 5 deep breaths. Change sides to challenge the flexibility of the other hip and test your skills on both sides. It’s always good to balance both sides of the body.
4. Full Lotus Headstand
From a Half Lotus, make sure that the left foot is deep enough in the crease of the right hip. This will enable you to get into Full Lotus easier. Since I have a little bit of a tighter hip, I need a little momentum to get the other leg in place. So if you are anything like me, then please listen carefully ...
You will actually bend your right leg and then swing the lower half of the leg away from you. Then you will swing it gently yet briskly so that is catches on top of the left thigh. Once your foot is on the opposite thigh you will start to shimmy your right foot into the crease of the left hip. Now, if your hips are more flexible than mine, then you may not need to use this momentum. They will just land in Half Lotus with a bit more ease. We all have different bodies, so honor what yours comes with.
Once you are in position, point the knees up toward the sky and hold for 5-to-10 breaths.
Optional drill: If you want to challenge yourself further, then try knee crunches by bringing them down toward your chest for a breath and then pull them back up as high as you can without straining yourself. Do this 5 times and then release your Full Lotus by pausing in a traditional Headstand. Slowly bring yourself down into Child’s Pose to rest.
Photo Credit: Nicholas Oscoff/mindbodygreen