inversions are a funny animal when you first join a yoga class. you want me to do what?? well, as we progress in our practice, it is fun to see how some bodies actually begin to crave turning upside down. i equate it to a similar sensation i feel in my hamstrings after two days off of practice - they actually ache for opening. i've had students tell me that they love closing their office door and just going up into headstand mid-day. for those of you a bit timid, and rightfully so, about turning your world upside down, read on for some of my fave headstand tips and stages:
- make sure you are strong in downward facing dog, chaturanga, and up dog before progessing into a full headstand. if you're still struggling with vinyasa, don't worry, i'll offer some great modifications to help build strength.
- begin in downward facing dog on a non-slip surface - your fave yoga mat in your fave comfy, fitted clothes. nothing is worse than turning upside down and your shirt coming over your head, preventing your dristi (focus point).
- come onto your forearms with the elbows directly under your shoulders and interlace your hands. some of you will stay right here, pressing your forearms into the mat and keeping the shoulders lifted without sinking shoulders to ears.
- if you feel strong here, place the top of your head in between your clasped hands. david swenson, my ashtanga yoga teacher training teacher who is a total gem, encouraged us to view headstand as forearms stand. meaning, to put as much weight into our forearms, rather than the head. play here, work on shifting the weight distribution off of your head, into your forearms so that you have lots of space along the neck.
- next step is to walk your feet in towards your hands until they just won't go anymore. again, stay here if this is enough challenge. getting comfortable upside down is no easy feat!
- begin to engage the core, bend the knees and bring your knees above your hips. stay here. most people try to kick up at the wall, banging into the wall without ever connecting to the core when first learning headstand. surrender desire for the final product and enjoy being where you are.
- if you're steady, straighten the legs and extend towards the heavens. think tadasana (mountain pose) turned upside down!
- viola, you're inverting and replenishing your internal organs!
- disclaimer, please consult your doctor if you have any health conditions that would prevent you from turning upside down such as glaucoma or endometriosis (during menstruation). also, if it doesn't feel divine, trace back to the previous stage or release slowly down to child's pose. ahhh, one of the most glorious yoga poses out there!
turning upside down offers respite from our normal existance of being upright. enjoy the sensations, savor the stages, don't rush the process, and honor your continued progression both on and off the mat.