Yoga Tutorial: How To Do a Headstand

Headstand is considered the KING of all asana poses. 

And don’t worry – the king does have a queen, her name is shoulderstand (salamba sarvangasana). I bet you didn’t know the yoga world has a king and queen.

Well they exist and for very important reasons.

Both postures work harmoniously together by providing contrasting benefits to the practitioner. Yogis are encouraged to learn shoulderstand first and then move towards the practice of headstand (sirsasana).

Related: Headstand Yoga Video to Increase Confidence + Strength

For the sake of this tutorial, we will stick to the practice of headstand.

A few things to note before we get upside down:

Tips:

  • Headstand is NOT a beginner pose. It should be learned under the guidance of a teacher and then practiced against a wall to start.
  • Headstand should never be entered by jumping or kicking into the posture. It requires core strength to lift the legs up over the heart.
  • The neck is extremely vulnerable in this posture. It’s important to build and maintain strength in the shoulders to support the neck throughout the entire posture.
  • Headstand is not recommended under these circumstances: pregnancy, menstruation, neck injury, back injury, heart condition, high blood pressure, headaches, or glaucoma.

Benefits:

  • Revitalizes the entire body and stimulates the mind. This is a heating posture meant for stimulation (shoulderstand is a cooling, relaxing posture).
  • Reverses the blood flow which sends healthy blood to the brain. This results in stimulation which can increase brain power and clearer thinking.
  • Strengthens the spine, neck, shoulders, and arms.
  • Can help align the spine properly and improve posture.
  • Helps cleanse the internal organs by reversing the pull of gravity placed on them.
  • Helps to overcome fear of the unknown and orient the body in an unfamiliar situation.

Prep Postures:

  • Mountain pose (tadasana) is one of the best ways to prepare for headstand. The alignment of the body and the muscles that are active directly mirror the body in headstand. Practice standing with feet hip width distance or together, activate the legs and feel the knee caps lift, zip up through the midline and gently tuck the tailbone, roll the shoulders back and down, lengthen the back of the neck and slightly tuck the chin, then BREATHE. Easy enough right! Just do it upside down now!
  • Downward facing dog (adho mukha svanasana) is another great prep posture. Yogis will begin to feel the sensation of an inversion with their heart below the hips. This is also a posture to build and strengthen the shoulder girdle.
  • Dolphin pose, a variation of down dog, will take the practitioner deeper into the shoulders. It’s a sure fire way to work the shoulders and get them ready to support the body upside down.
  • The wall is your best friend! Practice against the wall for as long as necessary. Begin to move away from the wall by attempting L-shaped headstand, keeping one leg firmly planted into the wall. Only move away when your body is ready!

Now that we have all of that out of the way, let’s get to the headstand tutorial.

The real reason you’re still reading this blog post.

….But seriously, please remember everything above as it’s important information!

inversion, headstand, yoga at the beach

Pin now, practice later!

Bound Headstand Tutorial

This is the traditional version of headstand that’s been practiced for years by masters, gurus, and practitioners (like you and me). It’s also the safest variation for the neck.

Step 1:

Yoga Tutorial: How to Do a Headstand

  1. Interlace the hands and place them behind the head, cradling the round part of the skull.
  2. Bring the head and forearms down to the ground. Make sure the head is comfortable – use a blanket or fold the mat for extra cushion.
  3. Feel the connection between hands and head. Maintain this connection throughout the entire posture.
  4. Walk the feet into the body coming up onto the tippy toes and stacking hips over shoulders. This part can feel scary but the higher the hips, the easier it is to lift the legs.
  5. Activate the core and feel the entire circumference of your body working. This involves not only the front side but the back side body too.

Step 2:

Yoga Tutorial: How to Do a Headstand

  1. Bend one knee into the chest and continue to stack the hips over the shoulders.
  2. Continue activating the core here.

Step 3:

Yoga Tutorial: How to Do a Headstand

  1. Imagine the bellybutton is being sewn to the back of your spine and use this strength to lift the foot off the ground.
  2. Continue to stack hips over shoulders.
  3. Root down through the forearms and lift the shoulders up and together onto the back.
  4. Bring knees together to move into the next step.

Step 4:

Yoga Tutorial: How to Do a Headstand

  1. Squeeze both knees together. Legs should be active and working to help the body maintain balance.
  2. Activate your toes!
  3. Continue zipping up through the midline to create stability and balance.
  4. Continue rooting down through forearms and activating the shoulder girdle, making sure the neck is long and not crunching.

Step 5:

Yoga Tutorial: How to Do a Headstand

  1. Slowly begin to straighten both legs to the sky and find mountain pose upside down. How cool is that!
  2. Continue squeezing the legs together, keeping them very active! The quadriceps should be working which results in the knee caps lifting here.
  3. Zip up through the entire midline and gently tuck the tailbone towards the heels. No banana backs here!
  4. Activate the toes by either flexing, pointing, or flointing (flexing and pointing).
  5. Let the forearms and shoulders support the body and help maintain balance and strength.
  6. Breathe into the entire body – from the crown of  the head to the toes.
  7. Stay for as long as the body is comfortable. There’s no maximum time limit!
  8. To come out –  slowly retrace your steps with control and grace. The transition is just as important as the posture.

Tripod Headstand Tutorial

This variation can be easier because it doesn’t require as much core strength to lift the legs over the head. However, the neck is more vulnerable in this variation so please make the best judgment based on your capabilities.

Step 1:

Yoga Tutorial: How to Do a Headstand

  1. Plant both hands firmly into the ground with fingers spreading wide. Then place head about 6 in. in front of the hands and onto the ground. Make sure the head is comfortable – use a blanket, yoga mat, or sand at the beach.
  2. Arms should be at a 90 degree angle so that a shelf is being created for the legs to rest on.
  3. Walk the toes in towards the face coming up onto the tippy toes.
  4. Stack hips over the shoulders.

Step 2:

Yoga Tutorial: How to Do a Headstand

  1. Bring one knee into the chest and place it on the back of the arm. This is where the shelf shape comes into action.
  2. Continue stacking hips over the shoulders, preparing to bring both knees to the chest.
  3. Bring attention the core and midline – make sure it’s working and fired up!

Step 3:

Yoga Tutorial: How to Do a Headstand

  1. Bring both knees to the backs of the arms. Now your shelf is fully supporting the body, yay for a human shelf!
  2. Breathe into the core and remind it to support the body here.

Step 4:

Yoga Tutorial: How to Do a Headstand

  1. Just like bound headstand, squeeze both knees together and activate the legs. Make them work here!
  2. Continue rooting down through both hands and keep arms and shoulders activated and strong.
  3. Keep hips aligned over the shoulders and send the belly button back to the spine.

Step 5:

Yoga Tutorial: How to Do a Headstand

  1. Slowly begin to straighten both legs to the sky, squeezing them together. Again – find mountain pose upside down!
  2. Zip up through the entire midline. Think of your body as an apple core, supporting the entire apple. The core has to be strong, steady, and aligned.
  3. Breathe from head to toe and toe to head! Send the breath up and down the energy lines of the body.
  4. Activate the toes – small but important step!
  5. Stay for as long as it’s comfortable on the neck.
  6. For advanced yogis – try lowering knees down, bringing them to the backs of the arms, and then lifting into crow pose.
  7. To come out –  slowly retrace your steps with control and grace. The transition is just as important as the posture.

Hey! I’m Allie.

I’m a self-growth student, freedom-seeker, yoga teacher and the founder of a tight-knit online yoga community: the Body Mind Soul Studio. I’m here to teach you how to transform your life on-and-off-the-mat with a holistic yoga practice.

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REKINDLE YOUR YOGA PRACTICE

If your practice has waned, if your yoga journey feels lonely or you like the way I share yoga’s teachings, then this is where you need to be. Join me once a month, for free, to practice yoga as a community.