I can’t do Headstand

I had another post planned about ‘progress’ in yoga and depression recovery but things have got in the way- low moods, low energy and low enthusiasm. Never mind! Carry on, carry on.

I am a yogini and as of June 5th 2011 I cannot do a headstand. I have been practising yoga for 3 years and I cannot do a headstand. Oh the shame!

Maybe I’m being a bit hard on myself. The headstand in question is the ‘bound’ headstand (salamba sirsasana) I can’t tuck my legs up into my chest and balance never mind start to straighten my legs. I can get into a sort of headstand by setting up next to a wall and putting one food then the other onto the wall a la this method. I’ve been trying to acclimatise myself to the feeling of balancing in this strange way by going into the headstand in reverse. That is getting up the way in the link and then balancing with both legs bent against the wall before trying to tuck them into my chest and balancing that way. So far all I’ve managed is a slightly controlled fall.

All this has become a bit of a thorn in my side. When I first set out on my yoga journey I saw the inversions section and went ‘pffft I’ll stick to the sensible ones thank you very much’ and that is basically what I did for the first year. In my second year I was a bit more open to the idea of headstands and what have you when I had a private yoga therapy course. I was told I’d be taught shoulderstand and headstand to ‘cure my depression’ but alas my teacher forgot to teach me headstand so I was left a bit relieved but a bit disappointed. I let it hang for a little while longer, the class I was going to didn’t do headstand and neither did any of the dvds I was following. It just wasn’t important.

I’m not sure what changed but I developed a desire to learn headstand. Maybe it was buying Erich Schiffman’s fantastic book ‘Yoga: The Spirit and Practice of Moving into Stillness’ with the awesome black and white photo of headstand on the front cover or maybe it was just realising that I might be missing something by not trying this poster-asana of yoga. I tried on my own for about 6 months, both salamba sirsasana I and I tried salamba sirsasana II, although with the latter asana I was working more in a ‘tripod balance’ than a headstand. I was admittedly half-hearted but I still didn’t get it. I couldn’t balance! I would just tip up and then tip down again. Then I’d get frustrated and flail and kick until I got worried I’d damage myself in some way. I started going to a class that used headstand and watched with sinking heart as everyone except me quickly flipped themselves upside down, legs soaring to the ceiling. I became my younger self, watching as everyone else had the fun.

I’ve had a couple of private sessions to help me with this. Personally I think it’s technique more than any kind of psychological or strength barrier. After all I’m pretty much able to straighten my legs in tripod headstand, even if sometimes I panic and move my hands (why???) Turns out I’m keeping my legs too straight which means I can’t tip my pelvis forward and so my centre of gravity isn’t shifted so I can’t balance. It all makes sense now! This revelation came a couple of weeks ago and I’d love to say I was one of the leg-soarers in the next class. Alas I am not yet but the joy’s in the process, not the results.

As a side note: why is it that all the people in my class can do headstand but they moan and struggle in wheel, or the standing big toe series? Were these people born on their heads? The mystery!

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2 thoughts on “I can’t do Headstand

  1. When you say ‘tripod headstand’, what exactly do you mean? I am curious because I got into headstand initially by working on strengthening my shoulder girdle area by placing my forearms on the floor, hands clasped, elbows shoulder width apart, and then walked my legs up the wall so my legs are at 90 degrees to my torso. This gave me the strength to give proper support for a full headstand. It took a while but worked great (and I am scared of being upside down!).

    Now, though, I am not even at the preliminary stage since I have been nursing shoulder injuries for what feels like forever.

    (P.S. Thanks for commenting on my blog! I’m going to add you to my list of bloggers, if you don’t mind. )

    • By ‘tripod headstand’ I mean what’s called salamba sirsasana II in the sanskrit. It’s the headstand where your hands aren’t clasped behind your head but you put your hands palms down under the line of your shoulder so they form a triangle with your head (hence tripod) I find it easier to balance in this position, especially because you can start by putting your legs onto your arms before trying to lift them. But apparently it takes more muscular strength and puts more weight and strain on your neck. Gotta take the good with the bad I suppose!
      I’ll have to try your wall technique, it sounds a good intermediate to building the strength. Maybe I’m too nervous to put so much weight on my head or something, maybe I’m just nervous full stop!
      That’s too bad about your shoulder injuries, best to take things slow. Hope they get better.
      Thanks for your comment! I’m flattered you’re adding me to your list of bloggers. I’m a bit blog illiterate right now but I’ll be reciprocating as soon as I’ve worked out how!

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