How to do a headstand

Headstand or Sirsasana is an inverted balancing yoga posture that can be both refreshing and energising. A headstand is simply the art of balancing on your head with your legs in the air.  However, if practiced badly it can cause injuries particularly in the neck region so it is important that you learn how to do a headstand properly.  Below we have written a quick guide to help you safely learn and practice headstand.

Practicing headstands within your practice has many benefits, they can:

  • Relieve stress and help flush the adrenal glands
  • Increase mental focus by improving blood flow to the brain
  • Strengthen the shoulders, arms and core
  • Improve digestion
  • Release toxins by stimulating your lymphatic system

You will be surprised to know there are many different ways to headstand, from different hand placements to varying entry routes – all have their own benefits when it comes to building upon strength and balance.

As headstand is quite an intense pose you should prepare and warm the body up before going straight into the pose.  Good movements and postures to do this include high plank, down facing dog, dolphin pose and boat pose.

Once your shoulders, arms and core are nice and warm you can start to master the headstand…

Mastering how to do a headstand

STEP 1. Get grounded – Finding the right hand placement

To get into headstand it is best to start on your knees. You then need to decide which hand placement option you are going to use. There are two main options…

How to do a headstand with supported hands

1. The supported headstand

This is where your hands are clasped together and placed onto of the crown of the head to create and inverted V from hands to elbows. Find the floor with the crown of your head, and cradle the back of your head with your clasped hands. 80% of your weight should be through the hands and arms, not through the crown of your head.

Tripod Headstand

2. The tripod headstand

This is where the entire crown and top of the head is to the floor. The hands are placed on the floor, shoulder width apart and slightly back, so that again a triangular base is formed.

STEP 2. Going up – Use a wall for support to start

To begin with inversions can be a little scary, so it is always advisable to use a wall for support if this is your first try.  Once you have your hand placement (the base) nailed you are ready to start taking the legs into the air.

To lift, make start to engage your upper body, pressing the elbows or hands into the ground, lifting through the shoulders to protect the neck.  Once you have found a stable base you can lift your legs off the floor until they are vertical and directly above you.

If you are using a wall you can start by leaning back against it until you feel comfortable. Then begin to practice moving slightly further away from the wall, perhaps only using one foot against it to stabilise.  Finally when you feel 100% confident, move completely away from the wall and practice it freestanding!

Tuck is also a favourite entry for beginners to try to once they have moved away from the wall…

STEP 3. Begin to play with balance and hand positions

Now that you are way from the wall and have have the basics nailed you can begin to play with hand positioning, using the legs to create beautiful shapes, or perhaps adding movement to build strength.

Think about entry into the pose, can you make it more challenging by perhaps trying to go into it with pike…

or straddle legs…

Then, once inverted, test out different leg positions a favourite for mine is scissor legs, but other popular variations include soles of the feet together and twisting, or if you have normal eagle pose in your practice why not give it a go inverted!

Headstand Variations – Hand Placement

Headstand with iron cross hand positioning

Headstand Variations – Leg Positioning

Supported headstand with diamond legs

Supported headstand with diamond legs

Supported headstand with scorpion legs

Supported headstand with scorpion legs

Supported headstand with L shaped legs

Supported headstand with L shaped legs

Supported headstand - Bow & Arrow

Supported headstand – Bow & Arrow

Supported headstand - Scissor or Stag Legs

Supported headstand – Scissor or Stag Legs

Supported headstand with eagle legs

Supported headstand with eagle legs

After you have finished playing, you may want to take a moment to recover in child’s pose.

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