My Headstand journey
People call the headstand the King of asanas. It tends to be the first inversion that most students learn as it provides a stable foundation for our body while upside down. Headstands can shift our perspective physically and mentally, and can strengthen upper body muscles, but it is also very easy to hurt ones neck and shoulder muscle. Alignment is the key to practicing safely, so you must have a professional yoga teacher helping you when you first try it.
Headstands (Sirsasana) used to be my nightmare for sure. I was afraid to do a headstand, I became angry when I couldn’t do it, and I had no patience while lifting my body. Now though, it has became my favorite asana. Here are the two main problems i met when I first began practicing.
Problem 1: My shoulders were always retracted, I couldn’t ground myself on the mat firmly, and I had no strength so all the weight was on my neck.
Method: Remember that a headstand doesn’t mean you put all of your weight on your head—a headstand is a full-body posture that requires shoulder, core, and leg strength. Downward facing dog, Dolphin pose and forearm plank are very good to build shoulder strength, and you should always practice and warm up before you attempt to do a headstand.
Problem 2: I always fell over, and couldn’t balance my body. I found that my tailbone always pointed out, and my back was always overarched.
Method: Protract and depress shoulders, engage hips, tuck in tailbone. Use gravity! Do not only use your own muscles, gravity especially can help when you start to lift your body up. Walk your legs close to shoulders, and once you feel the legs become weightless, lift one leg to form a straight vertical line, and then begin to lift the other leg. Alternatively, bend your knees, stay there for a while to feel your body balance, then slowly lift up. To start with, you can practice against the wall, or just ask your yoga teacher to help you lift.
Now I am addicted to practicing headstand, because the process of learning it changed me. Before I was afraid of failure, I thought my failure of doing a headstand was because of my body limitation: short arms and big hips. But really, just be patient and intelligent, keep practicing, and everything will come.
Danli Sun (200hr Hatha/Ashtanga weekday)