Headstand is the scary posture but it doesn’t have to be (see my previous post here). Always seek a teacher for learning headstand as they can check your alignment - something you will struggle to do when learning alone.
So why do we practice headstands? Here are eight of the main benefits of practising headstand:
Builds strength in the shoulders and arms - the prep work of downward dog and dolphin helps to build strength in your arms and shoulders and headstand is a continuation of that. You will find that the more strength you build, the longer you will be able to hold it. It’s a great marker for progress in your practice
Improves flexibility and mobility of the shoulders - you need a certain level of flexibility and mobility in your shoulders to be able to attempt headstand. It’s a great posture to focus on for gaining this mobility as it gives you a clear indication of how far you’ve come in opening your shoulders
When you’re upside down, the heart has to work harder to pump blood to the legs - when you are stood up, the heart has to work harder to pump blood to the minority of the body (head and shoulders) as gravity helps to move the blood to the legs. When you are upside down, the heart has to pump blood to the majority of the body (your legs) while going against gravity. This means headstands (and other inversions) help to strengthen the heart muscle.
Improves concentration - you need to really focus to find your balance when coming into your headstand. You’re honing your concentration skills by working on a posture that is difficult to achieve. You must stay aware of your body and breath as you come up. If the mind wanders off in the early stages of coming into your headstand, you will probably find that you can’t get up or hold it. Concentration is key for achieving this asana
On an energetic level, this asana is seen as the king of the asanas - it helps to awaken your crown chakra (sahasrara chakra) which, when awakened, leads to bliss.
Alleviates back pain - when the body is inverted, the cervical and thoracic parts of the back take more pressure, leaving the lumbar and sacral areas freer as they are lessened of their usual burden
Rejuvenates the body - as the body is inverted it causes you to take deeper breaths. By taking deeper breaths, you are bringing more oxygen into the body which helps to lift our energy levels. The more oxygen we can bring into the brain, the more awake we feel
Self confidence is increased - when you manage to come into this tricky asana you feel happy. You go from looking at someone else doing it and thinking ‘I’m never going to be able to do that’ to doing it yourself. It’s a massive confidence boost. This is why headstand is so great for marking your progress in your practice. It allows you to go from doubtful to confident and capable. It can help change your outlook on life off the mat too. The next time you feel worried about something big, you can remember the time you spent on your mat learning to come up into the impossible headstand and realise that was possible. Everything is possible.