Learning to Like Headstand

Headstand … for about 18 months, headstand was the bane of my yogic existence. I had weak arm and neck muscles, minimal core strength, and alot of fear about falling over. Headstand came into my life because I practiced Sivananda yoga at Yoga and Inner Peace in Lake Worth for several years. Headstand is a key asana in Sivananda, being the King of Asanas. The goal was to hold it for 3 minutes. Ha!

First of all, you have to raise your legs in the air using your core and arm muscles (particularly):

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This is not always easy or fun. You really have to be focused and have your core engaged to begin lifting. I love to see someone with a good core lift their legs straight in the air! It’s amazing to see. Then you have to find the point of balance – again using the core, shoulders and arms to stabilize:

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Once you’ve found center and are firm in your headstand, you have to start thinking about details. Pulling shoulders up and away from ears. Breeeeaaathing. Deeply. We have a tendency to hold our breath when we are doing something difficult. Headstand is the one position I am most likely to forget to breathe in.

For many months, I actually had the headstand physically achieved, but lacked the confidence to come up on my own. I had this vision in my head that I would fall and hit the person across from me and start a domino effect of yogis falling out of headstand …. this asana gave me alot of anxiety.new york day 2 023

Now, after 6 or 7 years, I can hold headstand for 3 minutes. Not all the time, but some days, especially when I can really climb into my head. And I can do very simple variations:

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This is not in any way meant to be a instructional guide on how to do headstand. This is just an abbreviated tour of the months of sweat, anxiety, strength building, fear releasing, and eventually, guiding me into actually enjoying headstand. We do not practice headstand at Bindu for safety reasons, and I only practice it at home. I find it’s great if I need to try to focus and physically, I find it helps relieve anxiety (ironically), PMS, and mentally, it builds enormous confidence. I’ve seen students so strong and flexible they could get into variations in headstand I couldn’t even do on the ground. Many times I witnessed Neal at YIP hold headstand for 10 or 20 minutes, without breaking a sweat. Neal was, I believe, in his 70’s at the time.

What I really learned from headstand is to give everything a try, and keep on trying. Unless it causes you actual physical pain, don’t give up. Moment by moment everything can change until you find yourself looking forward to what you used to dread.