Last week, we talked about the benefits of going upside down. One of the best ways to get comfortable with having your world turned topsie-turvey is HEADSTAND! Before you unroll your mat and head toward a wall to catch you if you fall, check out these tips below for working on inversions in the middle of the room.
1. DO NOT EVER EVER EVER KICK INTO HEADSTAND. This is one of THE MOST IMPORTANT pieces of advice that I CANNOT STRESS ENOUGH, hence all of the caps. Headstand is not like forearmstand or handstand. In both of those postures, as we start to learn how to arrive with our legs above our heads, there is a small "kick" that happens. I actually cue it as a "float" because kick implies using more momentum and a general lack of control whereas float implies a deliberate and control ascent. In forearmstand or handstand, if you float and you topple over backwards, you are flexing at your wrists, elbows and shoulders. Though it might be uncomforatble, the chances of you seriously damaging your spine are limited. In HEADSTAND, you are balancing on your head. Should you kick and topple over, you are setting your neck up to do the same type of flexion as your wrists. You neck was not meant for that. Because of your proximity to the ground and the amount of support that your arms are offering, lifting yourself into headstand is the goal.
2. Embrace the egg. When you are starting on your inversion journey, the egg shape, with knees tucked into chest, is a GREAT place to start learning how to breath and calm the mind while upside down. One you can comforatably hold the egg for 10 breaths, you are ready to extend those legs into other variations.
3. Find the version that works for you. There are two types of headstand that work well for beginners, supported and tripod. The videos below go over both variations. Depending on shoulder and hamstring availability, one will be easier than the other. Practice the one that comes most naturally first to help get your bearings upside down. Once you understand the feeling of supporting yourself with your feet off the ground, the body will remember and transfer the knowledge to other variations of headstand.
4. Get away from the wall. The wall is a crutch. If you always practice against the wall, you will forever be searching for it when you practice in the middle of the room. In other words, you are teaching yourself how to fall backwards past the stacked position. Though it can evoke more fear, the middle of the room will ultimately give you the awareness you need to confidently hold your body upside down. That means you will probably have to move more slowly. FANTASTIC! Speed usually means plowing through alignment, engagement, and focus points that you need to address to stay afloat. Time is your friend on this journey.
5. Use your legs. We focus so much energy on core stability because it is true, if you have an undeveloped core, you will not be able to support yourself upside down. However, just as important is engaging your legs and glutes. The more engaged the legs are, the "lighter" they feel. If you let your legs hang limply, the will throw off your balance and your line.
It takes an INCREDIBLE about of core strength and trust in self to be upside down in ANY way. Below is a quick core circuit that I do before any serious inversion work.
25 per side figure four crunches
15 per side oblique V-ups
30 leg lifts
30 reverse crunches
30 combo leg lifts and reverse crunches
25 in and outs (high boat to low boat)
50 ab bikes
1 min+ hollow hold
You can follow along with the videos below for some abdominal/headstand work.
Here, Emily and I will guide you through a few different ab exercises with your head on the ground to prepare you for your ascent.
Once you have a solid foundation in your headstand, play along with me here for some challenging ab variations.