I’m a really big fan of inversions in all their forms. Generally speaking an inversion is any pose where your head is below your heart. So while headstands and handstand are probably the first things that come to mind you’re also in an inversion in downward facing dog, standing forward folds and even legs up the wall.
While I love all inversions I’d like to speak more specifically about headstand using props. Now before I ramble on about all the amazing benefits its important to note that headstands are not for everyone, people with neck injuries, epilepsy, high blood pressure, heart conditions, acid reflux and eye problems should seek medical advise before getting upside down. Also women on their monthly cycle may also want to avoid headstand (think gravity and flow …enough said).
Traditional headstand can be a little scary for students and teachers alike. If you don’t get the correct alignment you put your neck at great risk of injury and if you don’t yet have the strength simply lifting your legs up can feel like mission impossible.
So how do you do a headstand without putting your neck at risk and use a little momentum to take yourself up? You don’t need any fancy yoga props you just need to chairs and a wall. To be kind to your traps use padded chairs or put down cushions and/or blankets to give yourself a little padding and if you’re crazy like me and kind of enjoy a little pain you can skip the padding idea, you’ll be working deeper into releasing your traps. If your chairs feel like they may slip place a yoga mat under the feet of your chairs. Bring the chairs snug up against the wall facing each other (see picture to the right). Fold forward and bring your head into the gap between the chairs and against the wall, you want the tops of your shoulders to be resting evenly on each chair. For me having the chairs about 25 centimetres apart works well but you’ll need to have a bit of a play around to see what works best; you want to feel comfortable and stable. When you’re ready walk your legs in towards the wall, have your hands planted on each chair finger tips facing the wall then press into your hands for leverage and either lift yourself up slowly using core strength or kick your legs up(see video below). From here if you’re feeling steady you can experiment with different arm positions to work on releasing tension in your traps. When you’re ready to come back down press your hands firmly into the chairs and slowly lower yourself back down then come to rest in childs pose while you let the blood run back away from your head.
The true benefits of headstand are said to be experienced after around 3 minutes of inverting, 3 minutes can feel huge is you’re not used to going upside down, so I recommend start off small maybe just 30 seconds and then working your way up. I personally practice this type of headstand supported by chairs for about 5 minutes and for me it’s magic. Speaking of benefits here are some of the many benefits of having a regular headstand practice.
- This style of headstand helps to stimulate the parasympathetic nervous system, which produces feelings of relaxation and calmness. Your parasympathetic nervous system is a brilliantly peaceful place to be.
- Forget expensive spa treatments reversing gravity flushes fresh nutrients and oxygen to the face and stimulates the facial capillaries giving you a beautiful healthy glow.
- Not quite so regular…when you first think about it may not make sense that turning upside down would actually help you go but keep reading. When you invert your body you allow the stool that is moving through the ascending colon to move with the force of gravity. The pressing of the stool against the intestinal walls also encourages movement and the pressure on the walls of the digestive tract stimulates a stronger peristalsis (muscle contractions that occur in your digestive tract).
- Hit a wall can’t concentrate or focus? When the brain lacks a sufficient blood supply, the body becomes slow and sluggish because the brain uses 25 percent of the body’s oxygen. Increasing blood flow nourishes brain cells with more oxygen resulting in improved concentration, memory and awareness.
- Felling a little down…turn the frown upside down! When you go upside down the adrenal glands are flushed and detoxified, this stimulates the release of neurotransmitters and endorphins that allow you to immediately feel uplifted and can counteract depression and mood swings.
- No one really likes getting sick! Headstands help increase immunity and prevent illness. Your lymphatic system has a key role to play in keeping you well. As lymph moves through the body it picks up toxins and bacteria to be eliminated by the lymph nodes. Lymph moves as a result of muscular contractions but is also affected by gravity. So when you go upside down you’re sending your lymph to your respiratory organs, where germs often get into the body. When you return to an upright position, gravity drains the lymph away again, sending it through your lymph nodes for cleansing.
So go have fun get upside down and enjoy the new perspective but also never forget to always be listening to your body, not all days will be the same. Honour where you’re at and what your body needs.
Love Blessings and Kindness