4 Steps to Learn Headstand Pose

by Lucas Rockwood

The classic yoga headstand is a very powerful pose and one that every student can learn to do safely and effectively. The only thing required to learn is a little patience and a willingness to take it step-by-step.

Step 1: Down Dog with Your Head on the Floor

  • From a kneeling position, clasp your elbows and place your forearms on the floor. This is the correct width for your arms, don’t let them go wider.

  • Interlace your fingers and then open your hands up. Your interlaced fingers will “cup” the back of your head in a moment.

  • Place your head on the floor. You want your head to teach the ground right about at your hairline (it’s more forward than you would think) with your hands now cupping the back of your head.

  • With your feet together, do down dog with your head on the floor.

Step 2: Walk Your Feet Closer

  • Keep your head and arms as they are, and slowly walk your feet closer to your elbows.

  • When you have walked in as close as you can go with straight legs, stop.

Step 3: Bend One Leg Into Your Chest

  • No jumping, no bouncing, no leg flying in the air—ever. Instead, simply bend one leg at the knee and pull the knee of that bent leg as close to your chest as you can.

  • One leg is bent into your chest, the other leg stays straight and strong.

  • Hold here, breathe, and then switch back and forth slowly and with control.

Step 4: Bend Both Knees In & Perhaps Lift Up

  • When step 3 feels comfortable, try bending both knees to the chest at the same time and just stay there, both knees bent to chest in a half-headstand.

  • No jumping, bouncing, or legs flying in the air—ever. You might stay here in half-headstand for weeks, that’s just great.

  • If and when you feel comfortable, slowly lift your legs into the air and find your balance. If you’re ready, the balance will come very easily. If not, go back a step.

  • To come down, bend the knees and reverse the steps.

No matter what you might have heard, any student, any age, any weight, any ability can learn the headstand. It’s just a matter of practice and patience—and proper setup. Within a few weeks, most students will get to step 3, and within 6 weeks, most students can do a full headstand.

Benefits of Headstand:

  • Neck / Shoulder / Upper Back Healing. Headstand develops functional strength and stability in the neck, shoulders and upper back. When practiced carefully, it can be a great way to fortify this region of the body, and it can be particularly helpful in healing rotator cuff injuries.

  • Mood Reset. Many students report that going upside down helps them to feel fresh and renewed, clearing emotional baggage from their day and allowing them to feel more peaceful. Why this happens? We’re not sure, but it probably has something to do with simply turning your world upside down.

  • Circulation / Blood Pressure Swap. When you’re upside down, it changes the blood pressure and circulation patterns very temporarily and stimulates circulation and lymph drainage.

Contraindications:

  • Neck / Back Injury. If you have a neck or back injury of any severity, you want to approach headstand with care, and perhaps leave it out completely. While headstand can be very healing, in the case of some back and neck injuries, it could make it worse.

  • Hypertension. If you have hypertension, inverted practices are not recommended.

  • Glaucoma. The change in blood pressure can aggravate glaucoma, please avoid headstand if you have this condition.

  • Arthritis. If you have arthritis in your back, neck, hands, or wrists, headstand could cause problems.

WARNING: DON’T USE THE WALL
Never use a wall to learn headstand. For other inversions such as handstand and forearm stand, a wall can be an essential and useful learning tool, but for headstand, it’s dangerous and unhelpful. Using the wall, you can potentially put too much pressure on your neck before you’re ready, and you won’t make progress with your balance. When you practice slowly, you’ll develop the neck, arm, back and shoulder strength needed to practice safely.