Yoga for Beginners

Mastering Inversion Yoga Poses: A Guide to Headstand

October 19, 2022

If you’ve been practicing yoga for a while now, you may be looking to challenge yourself with more advanced asanas, such as inversion yoga poses. For many yogis, the headstand is one of the first hard inversions they want to master. It’s fun to practice, is a great way to build strength, and comes with a super rewarding feeling when you nail it.

Headstand is a foundational inversion yoga pose that helps you get used to being upside down and finding balance there. Once you can skillfully master a headstand, you can start to work towards the more challenging inverted positions like the forearm stand and handstand. 

So if you’re ready to take your inversion yoga practice to the next level, read on to learn how to prepare your body, the proper alignment, and our top tips for inversion yoga pose mastery.

How To Prepare For Your Inversion Yoga Poses

inversion yoga poses

Like with all intermediate and advanced postures, it’s imperative to warm up your body before attempting a headstand. If not, there is a significant risk of hurting yourself. 

To master your headstand inversion yoga pose, do preparatory postures focusing on the upper body and core, as these areas require continuous engagement. Plus, stretching and opening the hamstrings is vital to help you stack your hips over your shoulders.

Here are some asanas we recommend doing as your basic inversion yoga pose (or headstand) warm-up sequence:

  • Neck stretches and neck rolls
  • Standing Forward Fold
  • Downward Dog to Plank flow
  • Forearm Plank
  • Dolphin
  • Boat Pose
  • Reclined leg lowers
  • Shoulderstand 

Yoga inversions for beginners: Headstand Alignments

There are two inversion yoga poses in yoga: the supported headstand and the tripod headstand. In this article, we’re giving the alignment for the supported headstand as it puts less pressure on your neck than Tripod.

A supported headstand involves interlacing your hands behind your head and pressing your forearms into the ground to balance the weight between your head and upper body. 

yoga inversions for beginner

Set up your base for your inversion yoga pose

  1. From kneeling, lean forward and bring your elbows to the mat. Take hold of opposite elbows to ensure your elbows are shoulder-width apart. You can use a strap to find and maintain elbow alignment, like in this video.
  2. Without moving your elbows, interlace your hands with your palms towards you and pinky fingers touching the mat. Instead of stacking your pinky fingers, tuck one of them in.
  3. Tuck your head into your interlaced hands. The crown of the head should be on the mat, and the back of the head resting against the hands as they gently cup it like a small basket.

Stabilize your shoulders

  1. Start to bring weight into the upper body by actively pressing the forearms into the ground like you are trying to push the floor away.
  2. As you do this, draw your upper arms towards your shoulder sockets.
  3. Hug your elbows towards each other as you gently broaden your chest.
how to master headstand

Align your hips over your shoulders

  1. Keep your shoulders stabilized as you tuck your toes and lift your knees off the floor, straightening your legs and sending your hips upwards.
  2. Walk your feet towards your body until your hips are stacked over your shoulders.
  3. Continue to keep pressing your forearms down. You should feel more weight in your arms than your head. Ideally, 80 percent of the weight in your arms and 20 percent or less in your head.

Take flight

  1. Draw your belly in to engage your core and walk your feet further towards you so that you lean the weight of your hips slightly past your shoulders. This will help your legs become lighter so that you can lift up.
  2. Don’t kick up. Instead, bend one knee, drawing the heel to the buttocks.
  3. Come up onto the toes of the other foot and slowly bend that knee, so both feet are off the ground.
  4. Take a moment to stabilize your body. Then with an engaged core, slowly straighten both legs up to the sky, stacking your feet over your pelvis.
  5. Hold for as long as you can (aim for 5 to 10 breaths), then with an engaged core, lower the legs down.

For a visual and more in-depth explanation, check out our video on how to do the headstand safely.

Tips to Master your Inversion Yoga Poses

1. Use the wall for support

One of the biggest mental blocks people have with inversion yoga poses, specifically headstand, is the fear of falling or moving forward. I totally get it, as I also had that worry when I first started practicing inversions.

This is why you should make friends with the wall when learning to master headstands. That way, you can practice without fearing falling and hurting yourself.  The wall offers support to help you find your balance and increase awareness of your body in space while upside down. As you figure out the correct alignment and weight distribution in inversion yoga poses, you’ll start to hold the headstand for longer and longer. At this point, you’ll feel much more confident and can move away from the wall.

how to use the wall for headstand

To use wall support for inversion yoga poses:

  • Bring your mat (lengthways) to the wall and set up your base. Make sure you’re facing the right way – when you come up, your belly and chest should be facing the wall.
  • Once you set up your base, find the right distance between your head and the wall by lifting your hips (like in Dolphin). Your heels should be against the wall.
  • Walk your feet up the wall to a 90-degree angle, with your hips directly over your head.
  • Engage your core and slowly extend one leg up to the ceiling.
  • If you have balance and stability in your inversion yoga poses, slowly float the other leg up, bringing the feet together.

2. Build your core strength

You may assume that upper body strength is most important for inversion yoga poses, but building strength in the core is just as vital, if not more.

Strong engagement of the abdominal muscles is essential to help you come up slowly and steadily without kicking and maintain balance in headstands and other inversion yoga poses. This will also allow you to release down in a controlled way.

Moreover, as the core is connected to the pelvic and shoulder girdles, strengthening the abs will help stabilize these joints and enhance your inversion yoga practice.

So, I highly recommend bringing extra focus to core work when learning to master headstands and other inversion yoga poses. Incorporate a mix of boat pose, reclined leg lifts, scissor kicks, plank with single leg lifts, and side plank into your routine to build a strong foundation for inversion yoga poses.

3. Invest in a workshop or course on inversion yoga poses

We strongly recommend taking a course on inversion yoga poses before giving them a go at home. This will help you understand the correct alignment from the get-go, significantly reducing the chance of injury and preventing bad posture habits for all inversion yoga poses.

The PlayPauseBe Upside Down in 30 days online course is designed to give you the confidence, knowledge, and skills needed to begin your inversion yoga poses journey. Here we share our proven step-by-step method of mastering headstands safely and in a short time.

online course for inversion yoga poses

What’s more, Upside Down in 30 days is a comprehensive 2-in-1 program. So once you complete the 27 in-depth headstand lessons, you’ll get access to the 38-lesson course on handstands to advance even further along your inversion yoga poses journey. 

We recommend opting for a course rather than an inversion yoga poses workshop. Workshops can be great but they have their limits; you cannot properly master headstand in one afternoon if you’re a total beginner. Instead, it requires much more effort, and most importantly, a routine – which is what we help to build inside the ‘Upside Down in 30 days’ course.

4. Practice inversions yoga poses every day

After taking an intensive course or workshop on inversion yoga poses, it’s essential to maintain a regular practice. At first, doing a headstand feels unnatural and difficult because we are not used to turning our bodies upside down and balancing in an inverted position. 

However, if you do it daily in your self-practice, you’ll quickly become more comfortable with inversion yoga poses like headstands. Eventually, it will feel like second nature!

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Beginner: no or little experience in yoga
Intermediate: a few years of experience in yoga
Teacher: you teach yoga or you are in YTT