This short flow for all levels is rooted in traditional yoga methods and will help you get acquainted with the body mechanics needed to practice Headstand. By Jospeh Armstrong
Using the Sun Salutation as the starting point, this practice will light a fire in the deep core and introduce specific patterns of movement that will be helpful in your inversion work. Some key points of awareness are in the shoulders, abdominals and hips. Remember to modify where it’s helpful for you. In your Plank poses you might drop your knees to the floor so that you can tap more strength and hold the torso stiff as a board. You might also use a block in any of the postures. If you squeeze the block between your knees in Dolphin Plank, you might feel more engagement. You could use a chair to help out in standing balances or practice the Headstand against a wall. As the challenge mounts, keep the breath deep and the mind calmly focused so that you might drop deeper into the inner experience of yoga.
Move through a Sun Salutation and pause when you approach High Plank position. Tap into the strength and stability of the core by holding Plank for 5, 10 or even more breaths. Keep awareness on the front of the body, drawing the belly button inward. Complete the Sun Salute and come to Samasthitih, standing position at the front of the mat.
Get acquainted with seeing the world upside down! Step out to the side with roughly a legs width between your two feet. Fold forward and place the hands on the floor in line with the shoulders. Make sure the belly is drawing in the whole time! On an exhale drop the crown of the head towards the ground. Draw the shoulders away from the ears. Hold the gazing point steady as you take 5 deep breaths. Use an inhale to rise.
Turn to face the right side and bend the knee. Take a lunge position with the arms outstretched in line with the shoulders. Move into warrior 3 by leaning the body weight into the right foot and lifting the left leg into the air. Cultivate an awareness of where the hips are in space and how to stack the joints for increased balance. Go through the same movements on the other side and then return to Samasthitih.
Make your way to Boat pose. Balancing on the sit bones, extend the legs at a 45-degree angle relative to the floor. Keep the legs straight if possible and strongly reach the arms out, parallel to the floor. If you need to modify then bend the knees or even lightly touch the fingertips to the floor. Hold for 5, 10 or more breaths. For increased difficulty, you might alternate few times between high Boat pose and low.
Now let’s put it all together and get upside down. Set up your base for Headstand by interlacing your fingers and aligning the elbows with shoulders. Place the crown of the head on the floor, tuck the toes and lift the knees. Try to maintain a sensation of suctioning the belly in. Make sure the shoulders are firmly drawing away from the ears. Walk the feet as close to the face as possible, maybe even holding on the tip toes, as you take 5-10 deep breaths.
Begin to play with lifting one leg into the air. Try to keep the grounded foot close to the face while you simultaneously fully extend the lifted leg upward. Keep the core engaged and shoulders pulling away from the ears. Hold for 5, 10 or more breaths. Make sure you try both sides and don’t forget to breathe!
Now let’s try lifting both legs. Extend one leg straight up as before. Bend the opposite knee and try bringing the thigh into the chest. Pull the heel towards the glute and point the toe. Check-in with the core and shoulder engagement. If you feel steady then slowly extend the bent knee upwards, coming into full Headstand. Squeeze the legs tightly and strongly point the toes. Keep the breath free and deep and let the mind be calm and focused.