[wp_ad_camp_1] Headstand is one of my favorite poses, and has been for a long time. It has very easily become a part of my daily practice, and I just love teaching people to be able to take control of their core and watch them glide up into their very first headstands with a huge beaming smile captured across their faces. Some days I practice headstand pikes, some days I play with leg positions and then on the days when I want absolute stillness and inner peace in my world I let my head ground down into my mat and I just stand there. On my head, deep in my thoughts, loving the life I live, one breath at a time. I use the headstand to steady my body and mind, to remind myself to breathe, to stay steady and calm and to find peace of mind. Yet on other days it is the thing that energizes me most of all.
Getting Upside Down & Losing Your Fear
As a yoga teacher I get to witness the full spectrum of responses from yogis when I mention we are going to work on our headstand! That one word has the power to elicit a wide range of responses and emotions in students – fear, anxiety, excitement, butterflies, and the out right “No” which often comes before I have even finished my sentence. And then there are those who get it, and hop up onto their heads and get their asana on with a wonderful sense of clarity and calmness.
If you think about it, turning upside down (literally or metaphorically) goes against everything most of us work towards in our lives. Why would be uproot ourselves when the ground works perfectly well with our two feet on it. However, sometimes yoga teaches us that stepping outside of our comfort zone is exactly what we need to be able to grow and develop. What better way to step out of our comfort zone than changing your perspective on life and getting upside down?
When your yoga teacher asks you to take your inversion, it is an invitation to shake things up, to step outside of yourself, and start moving in the direction that makes you come alive.
The King of all Asana
The headstand may just seem like a cool party trick, but is so much more. It is often referred to as the “King of all Asana” to highlight the absolute coolness of this pose and huge amounts of benefits the pose offers to the yogi.
The health benefits of a headstand are way beyond what you could possibly imagine, as you will see below.
Sharper Focus in the Mind
When you turn upside down you are increasing the blood flow to your brain, which in turn helps to improve your mental function and sharpen your sense of focus. So not only does the pose calm your thoughts, reduce your worries, stimulate the nervous system and increase mental power, concentration, and clarity, it also improves your ability to keep your mind sharp and focused on that exact moment in time. Which leads us nicely into point 2…
Are you prone to feeling that afternoon energy crash coming on? That’s the perfect time for you to get upside down! I get upside down straight after teaching my second afternoon yoga class of the day, and BAM just like that I am an energy filled Duracell yogi bunny once again. Happy days! Inversions such as handstand, headstand, and forearm balance get the blood moving more efficiently to our brain, which in turn results not only in physical invigoration but also mental relaxation as well.
Developing kick ass strength in the core muscles
Did I mention just how kick ass a pose headstand is for the core muscles? Wow, especially when you begin to build up the strength to work towards headstand pike and start playing around with all of the wonderful leg variations within this pose. The headstand is a major core workout. You will totally rely on your abdominal and lower back strength to hold your legs in place, and to maintain your fabulous balance throughout the pose. To hold the headstand for an extended period of time, you have to engage the obliques, rectus abdominus and the transverse abdominus. Having a strong and determined core will make you stronger both physically and mentally, and reduce your risk of injury in your yoga life both on and off your yoga mat in life overall.
Strength building opportunity for your shoulders and arms
A focus for your mind while you are hanging upside down will be on reducing the impact on your neck and shoulders. In doing so, you will be pushing down into the ground with your forearms, making good use of the strength of your arms, shoulders and back to keep the pressure on your neck to a minimum. This simple adjustment alone makes this posture an awesome pose for improving upper body strength and muscular endurance. Also giving you the most fabulously flattering triceps and shoulders.
The ultimate confidence booster
The first time your yoga teacher announced you were going to practice headstand, I am quite sure that a few of you found butterflies fluttering straight to your stomach while your heart skipped a little beat! That first kick up into handstand can be the most terrifying thing in the world in that moment. We panic, self-preservation kicks in and we start to imagine all of the things that could go wrong, or what people will think if we cannot manage it first time. However, that moment when you all the varying pieces of the puzzle come together, and it clicks and you find yourself flying up into your very first unassisted headstand you feel as though you are absolutely invincible. Suddenly the fears fly out of the window and that up coming work presentation doesn’t feel quite so scary hey!
The ability to stay humble
Yes we confess, it doesn’t happen first attempt or even overnight for many of us. So yoga teaches us the ability to stay humble, to realize that yoga is more like a marathon than a sprint. It teaches us that yoga, like our lives, is a journey. A journey to be experienced, and enjoyed, with many roadblocks along the way each with its own valuable lesson. Remember, life is a journey not a destination. The same applies to yoga. So stay strong, stay focused and know that if you practice, then all is coming.
The natural facelift
I confess that this is not one of my primary reasons for doing a headstand per day, but I do understand that by reversing the flow of gravity a headstand provides a free flow of nutrients and oxygen to the face, and head, that can be said to create a glowing effect on the skin. So who knows, perhaps a consistent headstand practice will help you to create that natural facelift effect.
Suffering from stress, worries or just having trouble focusing your thoughts? Headstand is awesome for relieving stress. It is known as a cooling posture which means that it helps to draw your attention inwards, allowing you (or rather forcing you subtly…) to gently let go of everything else that is happening in your world and focus on that very moment, quite literally one breath at a time. Going upside down will squeeze your adrenal glands, which are responsible for the production of stress hormones. When these glands are flushed and detoxified with headstands, we create more positive thoughts. Headstand brings you an instant fix for stress relief and depression and a superb offering of clarity within the mind. Plus, going upside down will almost always put a smile on your face!
Promotes heart relaxation
The heart constantly has to pump blood upward to the brain, so headstand gives the heart a much-needed rest and reduces unnecessary strain. This promotes heart relaxation by allowing gravity to do the magic.
Saving the best for last – Gaining a whole new perspective on life
Headstands give us a brand new perspective on life. By reversing your outlook on life, or quite literally getting upside down inversions teach us that there is another way approach any given situation. They encourage us to bring out our inner child to play, reminding us that our yoga practice and life can be as light hearted as we wish it to be. That there is always time, even in our darkest moments, to make time to be both playful and care free and open to taking time to change out point of view. Inversions are fun and make us smile, so what better reason do you need to get upside down!
Inspire & Motivate
Caroline Layzell is a certified 500-hour yoga instructor, based on the paradise island of Nusa Lembongan, just off Bali, where she is lucky enough to be teaching yoga full time at the Yoga Shack Lembongan. When she is not doing yoga she can be found underwater diving with the beautiful manta rays in Lembongan. Diving is her moving meditation! Caroline came to yoga after a lifetime of marathon training, cross country running, triathlons and short distance races. It helped her to put her body back together after numerous injuries, and it is here that her passion for yoga began. Now she is a self-confessed yoga addict! Join Caroline on Facebook, Instagram or her website
Images via: @rafashtanga,