8 Steps to a Headstand (Sirsasana)

This pose can be an energizing pose. It’s also one of the more difficult poses to master and, if done incorrectly, can cause serious injury. This post requires strong hamstrings, flexible spine and shoulders, and solid upper body strength. It’s important to ensure you’re focused, conditioned, and using proper technique before attempting the pose on your own.

How to

Get on your hands and knees with your wrists under your shoulders and your knees under your hips.

Bring your forearms to the floor, keeping your elbows directly under your shoulders.

Clasp each hand around the opposite elbow. Adjust as needed to ensure your elbows are the right distance apart.

Without moving your elbows, release your hands from your elbows.

Clasp your hands together on the floor, interlacing your fingers (tuck the bottom pinky into the basket of your hand to avoid squishing it).

Place the crown of your head on the floor. The very top of your head should be down—neither too far forward nor back. The back of your head will rest at the bases of your thumbs rather than your hands holding your skull.

Lift your hips and straighten your legs as if you were doing downward facing Dog .

Carefully walk your feet in toward your head until your hips are as close to over your shoulders as possible.

Lift one leg, while balancing so that the knee points straight out and the toe points up; as much as possible. Keep your core engaged. The main concern here is feeling stable. Get to the point where balancing like this feels confident. Feel your hands and forearms assisting you with your weight.

Take a few deep breaths. When you feel steady, inhale and engage your core muscles. DO NOT JUMP!! Lift your other leg slowly with your core, while keeping both knees bent for easier balance. Again, get comfortable. Get balanced. This may be as far as you get on your first try. Don’t get discouraged. Holding this pose will make the rest of this asana easy with practice.

In a slow, controlled, movement exhale as you lift one foot and point it to the sky. In every stage of this asana, take your time. Keep breathing.

Finally, when ready, extend the other leg. Breathe deeply and keep your core engaged for as long as you remain in the headstand pose.

Headstands are tricky, but the safest approach is to build the pose from the ground up, checking along the way to ensure your alignment is good, that you’re staying focused, and that you have the strength you need to get into (and out of) the pose safely.

Benefits

When done with focus, strength, and care, headstands can be an invigorating part of your yoga practice. The pose requires skill and mental fortitude. It also develops your core strength and challenges your whole body—from your shoulders to your toes, helping you improve your balance.

Contraindications

Injuries related to neck and spine should avoid this pose. If you’ve recently had an injury or surgery involving your neck, spine, or head, you may need to avoid the pose until you’ve healed.

Pro Tip: Even though it’s called a headstand, your forearms are bearing weight too. If you’re having trouble getting a feel for how to distribute your weight properly (which will differ for everybody), try placing a blanket under your forearms for stability. Using this method, you’ll want to start by making sure your weight is not all on your head, but rather your goal should be to root down into forearms while lifting up and out of the shoulders.

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