Safe Headstands

What thought comes to your mind when you think of headstands?  Is it panic, dread or excitement?  Yoga practitioners either love or hate headstands.    The difference in opinion has everything to do with technique and sufficient upper body strength to make sure little to no weight is actually loaded through the head.  Take me for instance:  I first attempted a headstand 8 years ago at home following my favorite TV yoga instructor.  There was minimal instruction, so I allowed most of the weight to press through my head and instantly felt neck pain and tingling in both arms.  I immediately got out of the pose and decided I wouldn’t try that again.  Years later, I finally learned how to perform headstands safely, supporting the body with the strength of the arms and began to enjoy this pose without any pain or paresthesia.

So, if headstands are so challenging, why even attempt it?  The health benefits are tremendous.  The headstand is known as the “king of asanas” due to all of these benefits.   In order to prepare the body, dolphin pose should be practiced first, building up to holding for 3 minutes prior to attempting a full headstand Follow the instructions below, practicing dolphin first and when ready, float up to headstand against the wall.


Headstand Benefits

  • Improved headaches/Decreased pain
  • Strengthens the shoulder girdle, abdominals, paraspinals and gluteus maximus
  • Increased circulation
  • Decreased stress
  • Improved sleep/ increased energy
  • Improved breathing capacity, particularly for asthmatics
  • Improved digestion
  • Stimulating to the nervous system and the pituitary gland

Headstand Contraindications

  • Abnormally high or low blood pressure
  • Cervical herniated or bulging disks, stenosis or any neck problem that is causing pain either in the neck or in either arm.
  • Shoulder pain
  • Pregnancy
  • Severe sinus or nasal congestion
  • Detached retina
  • Menstruation- relative contraindication, no research has shown any detrimental effects


Dolphin Pose, Headstand Prep Variation


  1. Begin on your hands and knees; hands directly under the shoulders and knees directly under the hips.
  2. Maintaining the location of your elbows, clasp your fingers together.
  3. Tuck your toes under and straighten your knees, lifting your pelvis just like in downward facing dog. 
  4. Actively press your forearms down into the ground, pulling your shoulder blades down and in.
  5. Hold this position from 30 seconds to 3 minutes with an emphasis on the activity of the arms.  Once you are able to hold for 3 minutes, you are ready to attempt a headstand against the wall

Headstand on the Wall


  1. Position the short edge of your yoga mat next to the wall and come into a hands and knees position.
  2. Drop your elbows to the floor, directly under your shoulders.  Interlace your fingers, forming a “V” shape with your forearms.  Your fingers should be next to the wall.
  3. Gently, lower your head so that the top of your skull touches the ground and the back of it is cradled in your hands. Do not make any abrupt movements. Take the next steps slowly.
  4. Straighten your knees and push your hips up above your head. Then, keeping your legs straight, stretch up high on your toes.
  5. From this position, lift your legs up to the wall gently one at a time and find your point of balance, using the wall for support.
  6. Actively press the hands and forearms down to ensure no pressure on your head.  This is the key to a comfortable head stand.  Maintain this pose for 10 or more breaths.
  7. To safely come out of the pose, slowly and carefully lower your legs down.

Rest in Child’s Pose for 2-3 minutes as a counter pose.
Note: Once you are confident against the wall, fell free to try away from the wall.  For safety, be sure to have someone close to spot you for your first few attempts.


2 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Stuart Berg
    Dec 03, 2011 @ 14:12:20

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  2. Sharla Mantanona
    Jan 19, 2012 @ 04:44:22

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