How to nail the yoga headstand

7 October 2015 by
First published: 4 October 2015

Whether you’re a seasoned yogi or an enthusiastic beginner, one stance that can chill the blood of many a yoga class is this: the headstand. But, we have good news! There is no need to be scared of this awesome looking pose anymore.

We’ve asked some fabulous yoga experts for their top tips on conquering this impressive move. Take your yoga to heady new heights and wow fellow classmates with these top tips for cracking the headstand. With this tried and tested guidance you’re sure to nail it!


Get to a class

I’d always recommend students who are new to headstands go to classes when first exploring them,’ says Katy Bateman, teacher at Union Station Yoga. ‘A teacher can really help you find your alignment. You’re putting a lot of pressure on the cervical spine, so it’s super important to get the alignment of your head on the floor lined up so you don’t put too much pressure on the discs of your neck. A teacher has an outside eye and will be able to see clearly if your neck is straight, so your weight can be safely and equally distributed down the spine.’


It’s all about the support

Naomi Constantino-Taylor, East of Eden yoga studio founder recommends making sure your base is secure and strong enough to support your body weight when attempting a headstand.

‘Look at the placement of your hands, forearms, elbows and shoulders. It’s important to make a steady base so you can utilise the strength of your arms and shoulders, so you don’t feel pressure on your head or neck. Line up your wrists and have your weight evenly distributed on the edge of your forearm bone. To avoid collapsing through your cervical vertebrae, press your forearms and wrists into the floor. This allows you to draw your shoulders back, creating space for your neck.’


Switch on ‘Mula Banda’

Mula Banda, the pelvic floor lock, is a key skill that can really improve your yoga. Practising this technique can help with balance, energy control and breathing.

Naomi advises: ‘Steady yourself and create strength through the lower part of your body by switching on Mula Banda, your pelvic floor lock. For men, this means contracting the area between the bottom and the testes. For women, contract and pull up the muscles at the bottom of your pelvic floor muscles, behind your cervix.’


Engage those abs

Our abdominal muscles play a key part in yoga, especially in more challenging stances like headstand. And strengthening your core can be really beneficial to your yoga technique more generally, too.

Naomi explains this in more detail: ‘Supporting yourself upside down through the centre line of the body is important. Alongside engaging your pelvic floor muscles you want to be lightly drawing your abdominal wall back towards the base of the lower back. Imagine sucking your belly button towards your back bone.’


Activate your feet

When practising a headstand you have to engage every inch of your body, including your feet. ‘Get your feet switched on. Muscles are heavy and dense when not energised. The more energy and activation you have through your legs and feet, the lighter they become. Handy when upside down!’ Naomi explains.


Go slow

‘It’s tempting to try and rush ahead and throw your legs into the sky, but this will throw you off kilter and send you flying! Take baby steps; work with first just bringing knees away from ground, and then getting hips above shoulders by tip-toeing your feet towards your head. Eventually you’ll be able to draw in one foot (keep it close, knee bent into your body with a strong core) and then the other. Once you can stay in the position (with knees hugged in tight) for more than 10 seconds, then you can progress to squeezing heels together and drawing feet upwards as one unit, very slowly!

If it helps, practice this by the wall at first (about one foot away from the wall). This means you’ll be able to use one foot to push into the wall to draw hips forward once you start to extend your legs, drawing the spine into one beautifully straight line!’


And breathe

And for our final top tip, Katy explains why it is vital to remember your breathing pattern.

‘Make each movement slow, intentional and safe. Most importantly remember to breathe! The slower you breathe the better. The aim of yoga is to unite body, mind and breath, so if you notice your breathing become erratic, or stopped all together, take a child’s pose, and come back to the breathing.’