This post is part 3 of a 4 part series on falling in love with yoga. The posts stand on their own, but here is part 1 on finding yoga inspiration and part 2 on creating a home practice!
So you want to spend some time upside down, young grasshopper…
In this post you’ll learn how to get into shoulder stand, the classical (supported) headstand, and the tripod headstand. We hope you like the videos!
Inversions are important because they energize and relax you (figure that one out!), and they improve your balance and core strength. They’re also meant to reverse your blood flow, increasing the blood and oxygen flow to your brain, and they are said to be very good for you lymphatic system which helps prevent illnesses.
First things first, meet dolphin.
Dolphin is a great pose because it helps you strengthen many of the shoulder and core muscles that you need to hold your inversions. I practiced Dolphin every day for several weeks before ever attempting my first headstand.
Use the length of your forearms to get your elbows shoulder-distance apart. Either clasp your hands in front of you to create a triangle on the floor, or leave your forearms parallel on the floor with your palms facing down. Lift your hips off the ground so that you resemble an upside-down V, similar to a downward dog.
You can hold this pose or rock forward and backward over your arms.
Ready to get upside down? Great!
Inversion 1: Shoulder Stand and Plow
Shoulder stand is known to be the queen of the asanas and will probably be the easiest out of the three inversions for beginners. Resist the urge to turn your head once you are in this pose as it is not good for your neck.
- Make sure your body is warmed up.
- Lying down with your back to the floor, rock your legs upward and catch hold of your hips with your hands. Your arms should form a 90 degree angle with your triceps resting on the floor.
- Engage your legs and imagine a string is pulling them towards the ceiling. Ideally, they should be completely vertical, perpendicular to the ground. Flex your yogi toes (maybe give them a wiggle). You’re doing an inversion!
- To get into plow, slowly lower your legs to touch the ground behind your head with your toes. Let go of your hips and rest your hands on the ground with your palms facing down.
- To exit the pose, come down slowly, one vertebrae at a time.
Inversion 2: Supported Headstand
This headstand is known as the king of the asanas. It is my absolutely favourite pose and I do one every day.
- Make sure your body is warmed up.
- Get ready by setting up in dolphin pose with your hands clasped, creating a nest for your head. This should be a piece of cake because you’ve been practicing dolphin for weeks!
- Place your head in the nest that you’ve created and lift your hips into the air.
- Keeping your legs straight, walk them forward until your hips are so high that your feet begin to lift off the ground.
- Tuck your legs in towards your body and then push them straight up to create a straight line. Use a wall if necessary.
- To come down, slowly lower your legs in front of you.
If you are going to fall out of a headstand, tuck your chin and roll out of it as if you were doing a summersault! Don’t be scared! Yoga is all about falling (safely).
Inversion 3: Tripod headstand
- Make sure your body is warmed up
- Place the top of your head on the floor and rest your hands on the floor, shoulder distance apart, creating a 90 degree table top with your arms (If you are familiar with crow, you will notice it is almost exactly the same set up)
- Slowly place your knees on your triceps.
- Hold this pose if you do not feel comfortable pushing up into the full headstand.
- When you’re ready, press your legs straight up.
- To come down, lower your legs in front of you.
Again, if you are going to fall, tuck your chin and roll out as if you were doing a summersault.
Some of these poses take a lot of practice and different poses will come easier to different people. For example, I find the classical headstand to be easier, but many people find it to be more difficult than the tripod headstand (which I find more difficult).
Don’t forget to have some fun! Once you’ve mastered headstands, maybe try out different variations with your legs. It’s excellent for your core.
Enjoy! And let me know if you have any questions. Do you want to see more tutorials for yoga poses? Let us know in the comments below or by tweeting at @GreenGuineaPigs.
ps. The songs are, in order: This Is The Beginning (Boy), Life in Technicolor (Coldplay), and Little Numbers (Boy). I find it funny how the different tempos affect the speed at which I move through the poses!