How I learned to headstand

Sirsasana or headstand is a yoga inversion that is often called the king of all asanas or postures. I do not know why and my best guess is because it looks cool.

Many beginners use headstand as a measure of progress, as well as practicing other advanced asanas. I thought the same before attending my yoga teacher training course, but not anymore.

Actually, there were only two people in my class who can already do a headstand. We eventually learned it in our Hatha yoga class, and interestingly, I made it on my first try, mainly because our teacher pretty much balanced me like an inverted chess piece. He was very good.

Doing it alone is a different story though. The next time we practiced headstand is during our Ashtanga yoga class. We all pushed our mats towards the wall and started getting into the preparatory postures: from downward dog or adho mukha shvanasana to dolphin or ardha pincha mayurasana. From here, it is about lifting one leg after the other using the core, activating the shoulders and back muscles, and balancing on the head and forearms while lifting the entire body up. Most people kick up, but this is not the safest way to do it.

My Ashtanga yoga teacher commented that I can easily lift up but not hold the posture. No surprise, I only tried to headstand a few days ago, no? But I kept practicing against the wall until our course ended. I am stubborn like that. I enjoy doing things that I cannot do.

From India, Markus and I flew to Bali and back into our tiny place with its lovely balcony and small garden and jungle views in front. It kind of sounds like our tiny house now, because we pretty much built it inspired by our time in Bali.

In this garden, I set out to nail my headstand. There are no walls now. What am I going to do? I was often stuck at dolphin because I get mini-heart attacks every time I would wobble in attempting to lift myself upside down. Falling terrified me.

Then, one morning, I knelt on my mat and decided I did not care if I fall. We have plenty of grass to catch me. It will be fine. What if my neck broke? I will worry about that when it happens.

It did not. I was able to hold a headstand on my first try. I kept going, and sometimes I would make it, other times not. The grass cushioned my fall and I found that I still managed to control my body while falling. It was not so bad. It even made me laugh.

This change in mindset made all the difference for my headstand practice. It remains one of my favorite postures and I find it infinitely relaxing. The world looks and feels different when you are upside down. Like things slow down, somehow.

I am glad I was able to overcome myself. My body was ready for a long time, but my mind was not. Once I was fine with falling, I made it up. I suspect many things in life happen like how I learned to headstand. We have to breakthrough. After, the possibilities are endless. Is there anything you are trying to learn today?

105 thoughts on “How I learned to headstand

      1. I’m trying to write literature. Haha. It’s embarrassing to say, but I just submitted my first short story for an online anthology. Hope it pushes through. In terms of physical activities, I used to run marathons before I had my son. I was starting to go for ultra marathons and my last long run was 53km. I do want to go back but it’s taking me a long time πŸ˜…

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  1. Wow, this is amazing! Last time i did this, it was in school and i could feel all the blood rushing to my head and me being scared. I so much want to do it again!

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    1. If you were able to do it before maybe it will come back naturally. It is fun. I hope you give it a go again. Did you do it too fast so all your blood rushed through your head? With me, I sometimes get a weird head feeling when I do plow pose.

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  2. What a pretty garden area! I’ve always loved the idea of having a balcony too. Maybe one day.

    As for headstands, I’ve never been able to do them. I used to see kids as school doing them (and cartwheels, which I also couldn’t do properly). Back then, kids would always kick up, like you say not to. It was just about physically doing it for fun and to show off, rather than actually doing it using your core strength and really focusing on getting it sturdy so you don’t flop straight back down. I’m tempted to try now, which I’ve not attempted since I was a kid. I’m worried it might end in disaster!

    I really want to get back into yoga too as I’ve been meaning to for a long time now. It’s fantastic you’ve been able to do this and it gives hope to the rest of us who wouldn’t have a clue how to attempt a headstand!

    Caz xx

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    1. It is amazing, what kids can do. I am also very impressed with them. What is keeping you from practicing yoga again? Headstand is definitely doable if we progress correctly. I think the wall is an important tool while practicing it!

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  3. So nice headstand pose Micah. Actually, I have fear coz I might fall or broken. I’m still working on my arms to be strong. My core.😁 And this week’s yoga practice, I was practicing my crow pose. Haha

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  4. I have always wanted to be able to do a headstand!! I’ll have to wait until winter has passed so I can practice on the grass, You look great!

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  5. great self-control and persistence on your part to do this! And infinite wisdom in your message πŸ™‚

    I have only started painting [rocks] since lock down, not a good artist I have persisted and I think today I have found rock art that is me πŸ™‚

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      1. exactly my point when I found out that one of my favourite artists couldn’t paint but wanted to so he kept working at it!

        Anything is possible once we set our mind to it as you know πŸ™‚

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  6. Impressed! That’s all I can say. I can do that pose where you get your feet and butt up in the air, but probably not ever gonna try a headstand. Love the pic of you in the flowers.

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  7. Very interesting how your mindset can really change things, right? I have been trying to do a headstand but always feel like something is wrong with how I place my head and neck, as they hurt quite quickly… Maybe I should do more research about it instead of recklessly attempting this ahah

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    1. Yes, there should not be any pain. Step by step is the best way to learn it. And good on you for being aware. I find that it helps if we focus on lifting everything up so we are not dumping any weight on the neck and head. But who am I to say things – I also tried to handstand recklessly in the past, which probably contributed to my chronic hurt wrist.

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    1. Thank you. This is from the garden in Bali. I find that the Balinese are very good at making beautiful things, whatever it is. The houses, for example, are pretty, no matter how humble it is. When my best friend visited, he said it seems like the Balinese like beautiful things, which is fair enough.

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  8. I won’t be learning to do headstands, but I try to learn something new often. I began to study Japanese haiku over 10 years ago only to discover that haiku, in general, has moved so far away from its original concept that I no longer write haiku. What I write is hokku which is about nature and our place in nature, also I write winter verses in the winter season, spring verses in spring and so on. So! When learning one thing there is always the possibility of learning something else, something new each day. I’m also learning to draw but I’m struggling with that and looking for different ways to approach the challenge.
    This is probably not the answer you were expecting! Perhaps you were thinking more about physical fitness?

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    1. Don’t you find traditional haiku nice so you preferred hokki? I like the subjects you chose. There is an infinity to explore in nature and our place in it. Have lots of respect for you for trying to learn something new often. There is always something, no? It is fun and it keeps us growing. Like you, I am interested in drawing but have not found space for it. I like watching others paint with water color. What kind of drawing do you like?

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  9. Oh, if only my attempt had gone so well. I had little core strength and not remotely enough arm strength for my overwhelming weight. Mt gym trainer spotters didn’t know what they were doing and I ended up with a face full of astroturf burns. Funny, though!!

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    1. Oh no, I wish the people trying to assist you knew how to guide you correctly. It could have gone better if they helped you gain strength step by step. Headstand can be broken into several steps, which helps with strength building. Did you fall on your back or?

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      1. Face. Arms immediately collapsed, face into astroturf, and I guess I fell onto my stomach. It was too funny for me to be mad.

        I want to learn an elbow stand someday. I do the splits in souvenir photos (#splitseverywhere) and was once followed by 2 young girls doing elbow stands. I’ve wanted to learn since that moment. Splits are impressive for an old fat woman but an elbow stand would REALLY shock onlookers!!

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        1. Wow, I think splits is cool. You really have open hips! Envy you. I constantly need to work on mine. Elbow stand as in pincha mayurasana? Sorry, I cannot remember the common name. It is like a forearm stand.

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          1. But you think I can remember the yoga name? They all sound like blahbiddy blahblah to me!!

            Yes, a forearm + head stand. I’ve never been around anyone who could teach it, let alone teach it to someone as overweight as me.

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            1. Haha. I don’t know, maybe you know Sanskrit. I think you must be able to headstand first before forearm stand since this is the progression. I have yet to learn that, too. It could be doable, unlike handstand, since there is no wrist action.

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                  1. Oh… I’m thinking forearms plus head.

                    Is tripod when you support your knees on your elbows? I was trying to teach that to my neighborkid cause she’s about the age when I used to do it.

                    I’ve never done a full headstand.

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                    1. Forearms plus head is supported headstand, I think. Tripod is you balance on your head with your arms at a 90 degrees beside your head. Supporting knees on the elbows, I imagine, could be crow. Balancing poses are fun. There are plenty, not just inversions, and they have benefits, too.

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                    2. I didn’t use it enough.
                      When I did splits after MANY years off, my hips popped rather painfully. But it’s all good now. I might not be able to stand up, but I look impressive going down (“th as t’s what she said”).

                      Funnest ever was doing a souvenir photo on the Queen Mary on Sat then, on Sun, doing splits again for a souvenir photo at the Natural History Museum – 30 miles away – and it was the same photographer!!

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                    3. Oh yeah, big pop on in the right hip. I was at work so I played it off like I was fine.

                      My knees pop in and out of joint all the time now (no cartilage in them) and it never stops being painful.

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                    4. Yikes! Sorry to hear. My mother has the same knee problem. She says it just happens sometimes when she moves suddenly or climbs a lot of stairs. I will never forget the sound my knee made when I tore my MCL in sparring.

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                    5. I tore my meniscus again last week but “recovered” quickly. I remember standing at a coworkers cube, not doing anything, and we could both hear my knees non-stop popping in and out of joint. It’s now to the point that I sometimes don’t even know they’re put of joint till the pop back in.

                      A couple months ago I felt really good decided to go for a small walk in the neighborhood. 2,720 steps. I was bedridden for a week. But insurance continues to deny treatment.

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                    6. The drug the doc wants to use is the newest and still under patent. When I researched it, cost was about $18,000. To be honest, even of they coveted it I wouldn’t be able to cover my portion of the cost

                      They’re asking for approval of older injectables now but I was told it works out the same because even though it’s approx $6k, you need three shots of it.

                      I’m having my ankle checked next week, since it now randomly slips out of joint too. I’m sure it’s more arthritis and loss of cartilage but I have no idea how it’s treated.

                      I know I need to exercise, even simple walking, and it’s frustrating not to be able to do so and getting no help from insurance!

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                    7. I don’t have access to a pool… $$$ and covid.

                      I was looking at beginner yoga, Qigong, and Bollywood workouts last night but between my furniture and filthy floors, I doubt I’ll do it. Maybe the bed yoga. I don’t know.

                      I’d love to get my knees well enough to return to circus workouts!!

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          2. Also re my hips: my knees, and now ankle, are so messed up that I can barely walk. So people are stunned that I can do a straight-leg bend and lay my hands on the ground. I’m actually close to laying them on a step below the one I’m standing on.

            It’s the only way I can bend to clean cat boxes but the back strain adds up fast.

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              1. My back is okay bending for awhile. I have to remember to think about it.

                I recall a day when I got a wild hair to do a bunch of house cleaning. I ended up sitting on the floor to vacuum (small wet/dry vac instead of the upright). Now I favor ignoring everything!!

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                  1. It kills me, mentally, because I used to be able to backbend till my nose was between my toes. Ditto for backbends where you start from sitting on your legs. Now simply thinking about backbends makes me fear a spasm. I’ve never had one by day but have had many in my sleep and dreams

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    1. Not sure if they are similar, but I agree that anything can be learned, especially skills, since they can be practiced. The closest I got to being in cold water is having a dip after sauna. Of course, that is not even a close comparison.

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  10. I love this. How you learned to do the headstand and how you’ve turned that experience into something bigger, more profound. Such a good insight into how things happen, once your mind gets with it.

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    1. Oh, thank you. My favorite UFC fighter said that everything is about mindset. Everything can be broken, but if our will is not, we will be okay. I wish I have this kind of mental strength but I really do not.

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        1. Back bends! Those are tough. Good on you. Do you take the progression of shoulder stand to plow pose and ear pressure pose? I find that plow sometimes gives me a headache so I am very careful with it. Ear pressure pose though is super relaxing. Mind you, my legs only reach my temples, not my ears. How is it for you?

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  11. The falling is the hardest part for me and I’ve still not overcome it. It’s surprising but comforting to know that you had a similar experience! Maybe we will have a conversation upside down one day πŸ˜…

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    1. Not easy! But I kind of felt like I could do it. My pike felt strong and lifting up felt available so I went for it. I think going step by step is important. I know some get impatient and just kick up and hope for the best. I think I will be more worried about breaking my neck that way. How do you go about your practice?

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      1. Lol fair. I stopped trying to headstand a few months ago… my obsession lasted for a week? I had a pretty strong core from CrossFit so I would actually lift off from pike with ease. As for handstands, only against a wall cause I was too scared to fall flat on my back πŸ˜…

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        1. Falling is a problem. I supposse a big part of it is learning how to fall correctly. If you already feel strong in your pike, you could be ready for it. Maybe practice against the wall, too, and see how you feel upside down and if you can lift yourself up. It is fun to feel the sensation of being upside down, no? It seems to change things.

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      1. The things I wanted to do were not nearly as difficult as a headstand. As a child, I wanted to be good at jumping rope. I found it came easily to me, probably because it was rhythmic. That was a LONG time ago!

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  12. Well done. Amazing effort. I set out to master the handstand a couple of years back…kicked up against the wall, felt so deeply weird that I kind of postponed my efforts lol

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    1. I understand. It is a whole new world at first. You planning on taking it on again? A few years ago, I was also interested in learning how to handstand, even bought a handstand course. But I forgot to take my broken wrist into account. Haha! Safe to say I am not going to handstand anytime soon. Even simple postures that are weight-bearing on the wrist, I avoid actually, even if I could technically do it.

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          1. Going great. Yes. Today was my 56th day. Getting better at it. Trying variations. Its so amazing. I too am a yoga enthusiast. Have to enroll for the training. πŸ™‚
            How is the Ashtanga Yoga Training?

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            1. Happy birthday! Respect for continuing to grow through the years. Yoga teacher training is a unique experience. Our classmates are of all ages, too. Our Ashtanga classes were great because our teacher was skilled in yoga and teaching it, also very patient. Where do you plan to take your YTT?

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              1. Ah not my birthday but the 56th day of headstand resolution. πŸ˜€
                Will try to do it in Rishikesh, India. The area is left to be explored and I am a gypsy heart. πŸ™‚
                Where did you do it from?

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                1. Oh, sorry I did not understand. We did it in Rishikesh in October 2018. I will look up the name of the school because I think they changed their name last year. There is no shortage of training centers there though.

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