Relax, yoga is not always meant to be serious! One of my favorite times in class is when I can hit pause and just allow students to experiment a bit. PLAY. In fact, that is really my favorite time I am ever on my mat! My home practice is usually several sun salutations followed by play, then savasana. Sometimes, it's just savasana, but that is another post.
This week we will be SAFELY playing with Headstand. I tend to be a little more conservative in my teaching so, when I introduce a pose like this I always try to make sure I offer several variations. I want everyone to feel empowered, and as if they let loose a little and explored a bit on their mat.
Headstand prep is accessible to most, where as headstand is certainly considered intermediate to advanced. If you have the space in your home, I ALWAYS recommend a wall for support.
Benefits for this inversion include:
Calms the brain and helps relieve stress and mild depression
Stimulates the pituitary and pineal glands
Strengthens the arms, legs, and spine
Strengthens the lungs
Tones the abdominal organs
Helps relieve the symptoms of menopause
Therapeutic for asthma, infertility, insomnia, and sinusitis
Contraindications and Cautions for Headstand:
High blood pressure
Low blood pressure: Don't start practice with this pose
Pregnancy: If you are experienced with this pose, you can continue to practice it late into pregnancy. However, don't take up the practice of Sirsasana after you become pregnant.
Headstand is considered to be an intermediate to advanced pose. Do not perform this pose without sufficient prior experience or unless you have the supervision of an experienced teacher.
1st option: Dolphin or Headstand Prep
Here we start with a basic dolphin (one hand in a fist with other hand cupping around it), bend knees and drive the hips back trying the flatten out the back. As your hamstrings open you can move to #2 pressing the heels toward the ground, and slowly walking the feet closer to the face. #3 Has you bringing one knee toward the chest at a time, using your core to stabilize you. Your grip in the hands may now change to cupping the back of your head (However, your shoulders and arms are still supporting the weight). Continue to play here for a few, then follow it up with a restful child's pose.
If you are feeling like you are ready to move forward, I always next suggest a WALL. In fact, this is where I still personally prefer. I can fully enjoy the benefits of this pose, without worry when I know the wall has literally got my back! Again, focus on bringing the knees to your chest, with control from your core, instead of just slinging the legs up in the air. Core control is much safer for the back and the spine.
Here is a good step by step walk through of this pose: http://www.yogajournal.com/pose/supported-headstand/
So understanding that legs high in the air, tall spine, and easy breath may be the end goal, BUT as with any yoga pose, it is about the journey to get there! Embrace each step and move at your own speed. Take time to play this week - And if it is NOT with headstand or headstand prep find a pose that you like and see if you can play around with it (listening to your boss, your body, the whole time).