How to do a Headstand

Turn your yoga practice upside down with the Traditional and Tripod Headstand.

The idea of standing on your head may seem impossible. But with practice — not to mention a ton of core and upper body strength — you can work toward effortlessness in this challenging inversion.

Patience helps, too. “Inversions take time to master, but practicing regularly and working at your own pace will make this goal attainable,” says Rachel Calhoun, a Health Fitness Specialist of Corporate Fitness Works who is a yoga instructor at the DICK’S Sporting Goods Customer Support Center Health Club. “Let go of your doubts and the floor to discover this rejuvenating inversion.”

A FEW TIPS BEFORE GETTING STARTED

  • Use a block or a book to find the flattest part of your head. Sit up straight and adjust the block until you’re able to balance it.
  • If you’re new to the pose, set up your mat about a foot away from a wall for support. As you build strength and balance, gradually move away from the wall.
  • If you feel yourself falling backward in the direction of your heels, look at your belly button to help protect your neck, says Calhoun.
  • Try folding your mat over on itself to create a small cushion for your head.
  • You can build upper body and core strength for headstands by practicing plank pose, crow pose and chaturanga.

Ready to begin? Let’s start with the traditional headstand, or sirsasana.

TRADITIONAL HEADSTAND (SIRSASANA)

BASE
Start on all fours with your shoulders stacked over your wrists and your hips over your knees. Interlace your fingers and place your forearms parallel on the mat, no more than shoulder-width distance apart. Your elbows should be parallel with each other in a straight line.

Start by bringing your hairline to the mat. Roll forward onto the flattest part of your head. Vigorously firm your hands and your forearms into the floor.

Straighten your legs as if you were coming into Downward Facing Dog or Dolphin pose. Tip-toe your feet forward. Continue to engage your arms and your core — this is where your strength comes from!

LIFT OFF
Pull one leg into your belly. Pull your other knee into your belly, and pause here with bent knees.

Calhoun recommends lifting your legs then placing your feet back on the ground a few times to fire up the core.

If you’re building strength, this may be where you work.

If you’re ready to continue, press the balls of your feet to the sky. Squeeze your inner thighs vigorously.

Continue to firm your forearms into the floor. Draw your elbows in and squeeze your shoulders away from your ears.

Remember: You’re not balancing all of your weight on one point – you’re making the tiniest of shifts between the strength of your upper body and the crown of your head.

DISMOUNT
Pull your knees back into your chest and set your feet on the mat.

Slowly lower into Child’s Pose. Rest.

TRIPOD HEADSTAND (SIRSASANA II)

BASE
Place your palms flat in front of you, shoulder-width distance. Bend your elbows to a 90-degree angle, creating a flat shelf with your triceps.

Gently roll onto the flattest part of your head. Press your palms flat and squeeze your inner arms toward one another. This should feel like hard work!

Lift your right knee onto your right triceps, and your left knee onto your left triceps. Bring your big toes together to touch behind you.

If you are a beginner, it may be enough to stay here and build strength.

LIFT OFF
If you’re ready to move on, lift your knees. Using the strength of your arms, belly and legs combined, press the balls of your feet to the sky.

Squeeze your core and inner thighs vigorously.

DISMOUNT
Pull your knees back onto your elbows and set your feet on the mat.

Slowly lower into Child’s Pose. Rest.

In addition to daily headstand practice, throw in some extra core work, even 50 crunches a day. Then, using these steps as your guide, “you will be upside down sooner than you think,” says Calhoun.