Yoga Pose of The Week: The Headstand

There is good rea­son why near­ly every keen yogi prac­tices a head­stand almost every day. As long as you keep a few impor­tant con­sid­er­a­tions in mind, not only will you not suf­fer from head or neck injuries; you will expe­ri­ence a myr­i­ad of ben­e­fits.

The­se include: improved cir­cu­la­tion through­out the body, increased ener­gy lev­els, improved core strength and strength in the neck, shoul­ders, and spine, a brighter com­plex­ion, bet­ter pos­ture height­ened con­fi­dence, to name a few.

Fol­low the­se sim­ple steps to begin your yogi jour­ney:

1. To begin, bring your mat to the near­est wall. Place the short­er edge again­st the wall.

2. Depend­ing on how thick your mat is, if you are prac­tic­ing on top of a hard­wood or lam­i­nate floor. you may wish to fold your mat to dou­ble it up for about the first three feet near­est the wall. You can also place a neat­ly fold­ed blan­ket near the wall. Either way, try to allow enough room for the length of your fore­arms plus about six inch­es.

3. Stand­ing on your knees fac­ing the wall, clasp your elbows.

4. Release your fore­arms to your mat (or blan­ket) in front of you, slid­ing your palms out to form a tri­an­gu­lar shape with your arms. Check to make sure that your palms are about 5–6 inch­es from the wall, adjust­ing if nec­es­sary. Now inter­lace your fin­gers, keep­ing your palms loose to help ground your wrists, and your thumbs point­ing toward the ceil­ing.

5. Rest the back of your head again­st the broad base of your thumbs, press­ing your crown down into your mat. This will be a small cir­cle on your head about the size of a quar­ter. You may have to adjust your head posi­tion­ing a few times to find where your head and neck feel most sta­ble.

6. Now straight­en your legs. Keep­ing your shoul­ders above your elbows, begin to walk your feet in one foot at a time until you sense that your hips are direct­ly above your tor­so.

7. From here, there are sev­er­al ways to lift off your mat. One way would be to bend both knees, draw­ing them in to your chest as close as pos­si­ble, and with an exhale begin to slow­ly raise them over­head, rest­ing both feet again­st the wall. An alter­na­tive that some find eas­ier would be to keep both legs straight, slow­ly extend­ing either leg over­head as high as pos­si­ble, and with an exhale light­ly spring­ing off the oppo­site foot, straight­en­ing the leg and releas­ing both feet to the wall.

8. Once both feet are on the wall, if you feel com­fort­able, you can explore remov­ing one foot from the wall at a time. This grad­u­al approach will allow your neck and shoul­ders to adjust to the feel­ing of send­ing pro­gres­sive­ly more weight straight down through your crown.

9. With prac­tice, if you feel sta­ble in your body lift­ing one foot off at a time, and your breath remains calm and steady, explore releas­ing both feet simul­ta­ne­ous­ly and bal­anc­ing. If you hap­pen to fall on your feet, be sure to rest in child’s pose (bal­asana) for at least 3–5 deep breaths before set­ting up to lift off again. Rest­ing in child’s pose gives your spine a chance to rest, return­ing to its nat­u­ral cur­va­ture. Your arms can either be extend­ed to help elon­gate your spine, or sim­ply draped by your sides.

When you first begin to prac­tice head­stand, you may come out feel­ing ten­sion in your neck, shoul­ders, and/or spine. This is due to the fact that your body is not used to stand­ing upside down, so the mus­cles in your neck and shoul­ders need to be grad­u­al­ly trained to work in this way. For this rea­son, it is very impor­tant to always rest in child’s pose imme­di­ate­ly after prac­tic­ing a head­stand. If you come up to fast, you risk becom­ing dizzy, and pos­si­bly even faint­ing! When you do come up, do 2–3 neck rolls in both direc­tions, mov­ing slow­ly and in tune with your breath. This will help to work out any kinks in your neck, alle­vi­at­ing ten­sion.

Good luck and have fun prac­tis­ing!

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