Headstand is a tricky, tricky pose. It requires a level of personal detail and modification that isn’t usually suited for group drop-in classes. Often the struggle has to do with where and how to put your freaking hands or which props to use. Here are some yoga headstand tips…
Yoga Headstand Prerequisites
You better have a happy and healthy neck before trying this without someone knowledgable by your side. If you’ve gotten pretty far with handstand and know how to support yourself across the shoulder girdle and core, you are ready to work out headstand and use these yoga headstand tips. Although it may initially be easier to get up into headstand than handstand or forearm stand, you really do need the controlled strength that the more active inversions develop to ensure that you are coming up with integrity and not putting any substantial or unregulated force through your head and neck. Similarly for Headstand ‘2’, the tripod headstand, the initial set up and lift may feel easier, but if you aren’t controlling the force through the head, neck, and shoulders you may be putting a vulnerable area in a bad spot.
Yoga Headstand Modifications
To simplify, to support a headstand, one is trying to get a setup where the head and forearms are flat to the floor in an even plane. Additionally, the set up should be free of distortion or unnatural curvature in the upper spine so that the shoulders can engage to support the rest of the body flailing above. Due to varying degrees of shoulder flexibility and structural differences in skeletal proportions, the angles the arms make relative to the top of the head can be radically different from one student to the next, one size or hand placement does not fit all.
Instead of changing hand placement or proppage, often we just try to move the head or upper spine around to make it work. But it doesn’t work, really! So you may need either a change in hand placement or a few props to get you going in a sustainable and helpful way. The photos below are obviously flipped through the magic of technology since I wasn’t about to do a headstand that didn’t work for me to show you all how bad it is. The block in the photos represents the ground.
Yoga Headstand Tips for Hand Placement:
Each of these will change the angle of your arms to lift or lower the forearms to the level of your head. Experiment. You’ll see clearly the change with my big head above. With hands interlaced my arms are nowhere near the ‘ground.’ Note then how the movement towards hands in a fist brings my forearms lower to the ‘ground’ making the pose doable. If you have the opposite problem, as in your arm angle creates a forearm structure higher than your head, than you would probably work towards hands interlaced to lower the arms downwards.
- Hands Interlaced: Pretty traditional placement. Fingers interlaced around the back of the head with a pinky finger tucked in. If I tried to change the arms and angles to get my forearms to the ground with this shape I’d round the upper spine and wouldn’t be happy in the neck if I was able to get up.
- Hands around a ball (or something like a ball): A halfway house between interlaced and hands in a fist. Try a tennis ball or a wad of yoga strap so you can keep your grip. A massive improvement for me in getting arms to the ground, but still not quite right.
- Hands in a fist: This hand placement gets my arms pretty even to the ground and the top of my head. A workable position for me.
Yoga Headstand Tips for Props:
When hand placement shift isn’t doing it, try some props to change the level of the head and arms relative to the floor or to bypass the floor altogether.
- Blanket under arms: My preferred propping for my big head. The point here is to raise the floor up to the level of the arms and allow the head space to rest in its bigness. This here photo is an actual headstand!
- Blanket under head: The point here is to use a firm folded blanket or malleable mat to raise the level of the head a bit higher to match the arms when you make contact with the floor. With real gravity the blanket will fall down on to the arms. Probably my worst reenactment but you get the general idea.
- Shoulders on chair: This ‘headless headstand’ will relieve pressure on head and neck if nothing else is working. You can also buy fancy prop chairs that create the system for you. Although they look a bit like a toilet assistant for the aged.
Experiment with these yoga headstand tips and see what works best for you! Let me know if you have questions or other ways that work for you. Don’t rush your headstands and have a good long child’s pose after you are done.