5 steps to headstand

headstand - yoga pose
There are numerous benefits to headstand (Sirsasana II) including (but of course, not limited to) stimulating the nervous system and giving the floor a much deserved break from our feet. West 4th ambassador, Carolyn Anne Budgell, flips our world upside-down for a fresh perspective on headstand with five steps to master the pose.

warm up

You don’t want to just dive right into this one. It’s important to warm up the pivotal muscles in the body that are used in this posture. Try the following to prepare the body:

• downward facing dog
shoulder openers
• core work
hamstring stretches 

the five steps to headstand

1. Use a sticky mat (doubled over, if you want extra cushion). On your hands and knees, bring the crown of your head to the ground. With your palms flat and near your head, bring your hands away from your face – this creates the ‘tripod’ between the head and hands. Your forearms should now be perpendicular to the ground. Lift your knees up and walk your feet in. Stay here for 5-20 breaths.

headstand - yoga pose
2. When your feet are in as close as possible (essentially your bum is aligned on top of the head and the shoulders), try bringing each knee, one at a time, to rest on top of your triceps (teddy bear headstand). Stay here for 5-20 breaths.

headstand - yoga post
3. In teddy bear headstand, engage your abdominals and float the knees off your triceps, bring your knees to touch and keep your legs bent, with your heels near your bum. Stay here for 5-20 breaths.

headstand - yoga pose
4. With your knees and big toes touching, roll your bent legs slowly upwards, until your knees are pointing up to the ceiling. Going through all theses motions slowly requires engaging core strength. Stay 5-20 breaths.

headstand - yoga pose
5. Finally, extend your legs straight up into the air. Seal the inner legs together. Hold for as long as you desire, then come down slowly, the exact same way you rolled up!

These five steps break down the posture so that you can push yourself only as far as you feel comfortable. If you only get to step one the first time, that’s okay! Any other postures you’d like broken down by our experts?

* Those with high blood pressure or acute neck pain, women on their moon/menstrual cycle and women who are pregnant should consult a physician before attempting Sirsasana.

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simply beautiful pose…
I’ve been trying headstand for about a month now. and each time I feel like I almost have it,but when my legs are almost straight in the air i tend to end up falling forwards!!

Comment by Alisha — January 25, 2012 @ 10:13 pm

What helped me a lot while learning this and working through the steps was to work with extending one leg at a time from the #4 position. Once I could extend my left only and then my right only, I had enough of a “feel” for the posture that I was able to then extend both legs (although I did my fair share of tipping over too!)

Comment by Michael Weaver — January 26, 2012 @ 1:16 pm

how cool is that! beautiful form!

Comment by mollie — January 26, 2012 @ 1:24 pm

This is awesome! Will try out steps when I get home :)

Could you have a breakdown of crow and it’s many variations? I never get a good chance to do it because I’m too sweaty in hot yoga!

Comment by Danger — January 26, 2012 @ 1:55 pm

Side crow please!

Comment by Sean — January 26, 2012 @ 2:54 pm

Handstand please!!!

Comment by Andrea — January 26, 2012 @ 5:34 pm

Side crow and sugar cane!

Comment by Kristen — January 26, 2012 @ 5:34 pm

“giving the floor a much deserved break from our feet”? :-)

Thanks for the tips. I’m always worried about falling over backwards…

Comment by PAS — January 26, 2012 @ 6:25 pm

I certainly want to give this one a go!

Comment by phil — January 26, 2012 @ 7:28 pm

i did headstands, and handstands, (with a wall… but still!) with a class at fusion yoga in brisbane on wednesday. went from feeling blah to feeling FANTASTIC with one short session! haven’t done them since I was a kid and was so much fun- one of my fave yoga classes ever!!!

Comment by lucie — January 26, 2012 @ 8:58 pm

Really loving this step by step breakdown of the positions to achieving the proper headstand. REALLY! :) Thanks for sharing.

Comment by Jess — January 26, 2012 @ 9:50 pm

Agreed @Jess, this is a great breakdown! I will have to practice…my roommates might be a little confused though haha

Comment by Kaseymichelle Qualman — January 28, 2012 @ 12:38 pm

Wow – I’ve tried a few other “step by step” handstand tutorials before, and never quite mastered it, but today (with this one!), I got it! Thanks!

Comment by Mary — January 29, 2012 @ 1:59 pm

I’ve been practicing by a wall! Maybe with this step by step, I have a chance mid-room!

Comment by Janet — January 29, 2012 @ 6:49 pm

@Mary How exciting! So glad we could help you master this pose! Congrats!

Comment by Allessia — January 30, 2012 @ 9:15 am

A friend gave sent me that page. I’m trying to do headstand and handstand, but i’m not compfotable being upside down. With those 5 steps, i will practice and conquer my fear and hopefully succeed. Thanks!

Comment by Régine Ambroise — February 5, 2012 @ 8:59 am

This is a great step by step but if you are having problems with balance, try using your finger tips to balance you self not by moving your legs. I took years of gymnastics of I ever felt like I was falling forward I would press my finger tips down and usually you balance out takes a lot of practice to control your balance but with determination anyone can do it!

Comment by Jessica — February 6, 2012 @ 8:42 pm

It amazes me that I could stand on my head forever when I was a kid and had no idea how good for me it was or what I was accomplishing!!! I will do this again!!

Comment by Starla — February 7, 2012 @ 4:45 pm

Amazing! I can get to step two but I’m always worried that if I try to progress I’ll hurt my neck or something. After reading this, I’m determined to try step 4:)

Comment by Kristina — February 14, 2012 @ 5:28 am

Thanks for this! I’m trying to get better at these sort of poses and it’s great to see it broken down.

Question…why would women on their cycle want to consult a physician before attempting Sirasana?

Comment by Kb — February 14, 2012 @ 5:51 am

Handstands and Scorpion

Comment by Kim — February 14, 2012 @ 6:04 am

I do my headstands with the crow pose first, then into the tri-pod with knees on my elbows, still in 5 steps though. Feels more natural than with straight legs at the beginning.

Comment by Renee Allen — February 14, 2012 @ 7:41 am

love this version of headstand, much more accessible to the masses than the traditional version. There are some good reasons for sugesting that you should just practice the trad version, but it is beautiful to stay chilling upside down in the first stage with knees on elbows

Comment by neen — February 15, 2012 @ 12:29 pm

I have never (not even when I was a kid) been able to do a headstand. I did a headstand and handstand several months ago with the use of a wall and was pretty proud of myself, but I still wondered how I could progress onto the next step. I’m so excited that I could do this!!! The first day I tried I couldn’t get it (I think it was my brain telling me I couldn’t), and the I did it the next day and held it for a long time. So so excited!

Thank you so much!

Comment by Badeeza — May 14, 2012 @ 6:39 am

hi this is vry usfl to me …………b cz i vil tell to my students…
have a nice day :)

Comment by goutham (yoga trainer) — December 12, 2012 @ 7:53 pm

Breaking down Crow Pose would be very helpful! This was beautifully done. Thank you!

Comment by Megan — February 5, 2013 @ 8:43 am

This is exactly how I am trying to master headstand. I have worked on my core muscles and upper arm strenght in the last month, and I can do the headstand for 3-5 seconds. one other tip from my hubby that was very useful was to keep some pressure in my hands to not fall over.

Comment by Carole Morrissette — February 7, 2013 @ 10:25 am

Hello everybody….i have been practicing the headstand since years….i can hold it for 75 mins…..”gradually” increasing my time….you too slowly increase your timing….be careful…thanks.

Comment by RISHI — February 20, 2013 @ 4:53 am

Is anyone getting a lot of weight on their neck?
I’ve been trying this in the sun today, and getting a tan under my chin!

But as its new to me, I have the balance for 5-10 seconds but feel my bodyweight on my neck, is it some thing that will pass!?

I’m 12 stone! …

Comment by Stephen — June 30, 2013 @ 8:48 am

Thanks for the question, Stephen. I’d recommend chatting with your yoga teacher about it. That way they can see you in the pose and provide recommendations on where you might need to tweak the pose and help you out.

Comment by lululemon athletica GEC — July 1, 2013 @ 11:57 am

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