by Shauna Harrison | September 25, 2015 10:26 pm
Ah, the elusive headstand. It is often perceived as simultaneously alluring and frightening and for that reason can either bring people into class or drive them away. I’ve watched the pure joy in people’s faces when they get into their headstand for the first time and also witnessed the frustration of repeated attempts. At the end of the day, the headstand is not a make or break pose for your practice. [Spoiler alert: there are no make or break your practice poses!] You are still just as much of a yogi as anyone else if you can’t get into a headstand, I promise. I always tell my classes, I did yoga for 3 years before I even attempted a headstand and then it took me another year or so before I felt really comfortable in it. Does that mean it will take you that long? Not necessarily. Maybe. But, sometimes it’s just a matter of being taught in a way that resonates with you and that really trains your body what it needs to do when you’re upside down.
At first wasn’t taught in a way that really allowed me to get the connection I needed to feel comfortable. Once that ah-ha moment happened, it was a completely different experience. I use that same method to teach headstand in my classes and it really does help with the awareness, strength and control. I wanted to find other ways to help strengthen the core, get used to being upside down and yet release some of that fear.
Enter the TRX, trxtraining.com. Wait, what? I know. Maybe not the first thing that pops into your head when it comes to yoga. But, let me tell you. It is an amazing prop and a really great supplemental teacher for your practice. If you’re unfamiliar with the TRX, it is a suspension training system that uses gravity and your own bodyweight to perform various exercises. Gravity and your own bodyweight… sound familiar? Yes, my yogis, exactly. The straps just offer a bit of extra resistance and/or assistance, depending on the exercise or pose.
Let’s look at that headstand. There are a few key points about headstand to focus on: base (forearms, shoulders, head), joint stacking, core engagement, and balance. My classes know I am also a big proponent of the “no kicking” method of headstand for all the points noted. It’s important to me that they protect their neck (obvious reasons) and that they learn to enter and exit with as much control as possible. The TRX straps allow us to do all of that and even get a bit of extra core strength at the same time.
Here’s how to begin:
Progression 1: A forearm plank.
Here is your base. Oh, and of course, your core engagement. With one foot in each foot cradle, we come onto the forearms, fingers interlaced. Making sure the joints are stacking (shoulders over elbows) we learn how to press down into the forearms and fire up the core. This will eventually keep the weight from being all on the head and neck as we move forward. Hold and breathe.
Progression 2: Supported pike.
Once progression 1 can be held comfortably, we begin to put the head on the ground. Come onto all 4’s so that your feet are the anchor point. Find the same forearm position from progression 1. Place the top of the head down on the ground between your forearms so that the back of the head is in the hands. Press your forearms firmly down as you also begin to press your feet in the foot cradles. Pike your hips so that they begin to stack on the shoulders. Keep the feet and shoulders pressing. Hold and breathe.
Progression 3: Single leg assisted headstand.
Once progression 2 is comfortable, bring both foot cradles on your right foot. Return to the pike position from progression 2 with only one foot in. Take the free leg straight up. Hold and breathe.
You will notice that A) this is a TON of core work and B) that you feel more secure with the assistance of the straps. You will also eventually notice that when you attempt headstand off the straps, you can continue to engage in the same ways as on the straps.
Give it a try!
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