You Don't Have to Be Skinny to Do Headstand

Registered Yoga Teacher By Gigi Yogini
Registered Yoga Teacher
Gigi Yogini is a E-RYT 500 certified yoga instructor and body positive advocate based in Santa Monica, California.
You Don't Have to Be Skinny to Do Headstand

Headstand (Sirsasana) is known as the “King” of asanas. It’s an invigorating posture that stimulates the nervous system and can help create a sense of calm in the student.

In addition to increasing circulation and activating the lymphatic system, this posture also benefits the digestive, respiratory, and eliminatory systems. Overall, Headstand is a great pose to practice.

However, while there are many benefits of this pose, Headstand can also be risky for the neck, lower back and the shoulders if not done properly.

While these problems can occur from being physically misaligned, one of the other biggest obstacles to this posture is fear.

I know first hand what it’s like to be afraid of going upside down. At one time, I thought Headstand was impossible for me because of my size.

Yet I learned that I didn’t have to be skinny to stand on my head. In order to succeed in this pose, I needed to use my entire body (every voluptuous inch) from my head to my toes.

Plus, in addition to creating a strong foundation with my arms, the most important elements of succeeding in this pose included a solid drishti (point of focus) and a calm breath.

Granted, you might still feel a little fear and that’s totally natural. Just don’t let fear stop you because you never know what you might be able to achieve if you don’t try.

So if you’re ready to practice this pose, here are 10 tips to help you succeed:

1. Practice near a wall.

Set up your mat with the front edge against the wall. This will help you feel safe, balanced and will prevent you from somersaulting forward.

2. Activate your core strength.

In public classes this pose usually comes toward the end of class when you’re warm. If you’re practicing this at home, make sure you warm up with core strengthening including single and double leg lifts.

3. Find the crown of your head.

Put your thumbs in your ears and reach your middle fingers to touch overhead. Place this sweet spot on the floor to maintain the natural curve of the neck.

4. Create a strong foundation.

With your fingers interlaced tightly behind your head and elbows planted shoulder width apart, press the wrists and forearms into the floor. Lift the shoulder blades up towards the ceiling.

5. Use core strength.

From Dolphin pose, tiptoe your feet in until your hips are moving over the shoulders. Engage your core to lift your legs with control or bend one knee at a time, to find your foot on the wall behind you. From here, press into the floor, engage your core and straighten the legs.

6. Reach for the sky.

Create length in the torso and reach the tailbone up towards the heels. Spin the inner thighs in towards each other to spiral the energy up to the ceiling. Draw the front ribs in gently towards the midline and activate your core as you keep pressing your arms down to lift the body up.

7. “Floint” your toes.

Start by flexing your feet to reach through the heels and lengthen the back of the body. Then point through the arches and spread the toes to lengthen the front of the legs and release the groins. This is a blend of flex and point.

8. Focus on the breath.

The most important elements to remember are focus and breath. Maintain an easy gaze at a single spot and breathe with control. Keep recommitting to the elements of the pose starting with your arms on the floor and moving your way up the body.

9. Give yourself a moment.

Congratulations. You did it. After you lower one leg down at a time, take a child’s pose. Relax your arms, soften the breath, and allow your body to readjust after being upside down.

10. Try and try again. 

Continue practicing without judgment. Some days Headstand will be easier than other days and that’s totally ok. After your build confidence next to the wall, maybe start yourself a little further away and practice lifting one straight left at a time. Who knows? You might surprise yourself one day.

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