For the Frustrated Headstander.

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Let’s talk about headstands in a way that is (hopefully) not the most intimidating thing in the world.

I’ll be real: it was only recently (in the past six months) that I started developing a relationship with headstand that was not based in the thought, “I hate everything about my life right now.”

Headstand and I battled for a really long time. I spent my entire teacher training day of inversions sitting and hoping people weren’t noticing I was crying. This fear kept me against a wall, unengaged and totally lost for a while.

There’s a very real fear about going upside down, and when I really went to dig into that fear inside of myself, it all came down to trust: I did not trust that my physical body was safe going upside down.

Whoa. Trust is so big. That lack of trust will fuck our shit up in so many ways if we don’t look at it.

So I looked at it, and it started coming little by little as I worked against the wall, but I soon realized that working against the wall is the least helpful thing for me because when I’m against the wall, I cheat. I can’t not cheat against the wall.

And if I ever get my feet away from the wall, it’s only a momentary blessing from the universe, and then I’m right back into collapse mode.

(I’m not saying the wall does not have purpose—the wall is very dear friend of mine.)

And classes didn’t really help much either in getting my headstand off the wall. I was hearing a lot of instruction that sounded exactly the same and that was vaguely like, “from dolphin, go to your ball, then press up.” (That’s an exaggeration. I had a lot of lovely instruction, it’s just that nothing was quite registering for me.)

After many hours of embarrassing solitude with my headstand, things started making sense.

I finally figured out the way that headstand, as a concept, makes sense to me, and the way it makes sense for me to teach. I teach it this way because this is how it makes sense in my own body.

If this doesn’t make sense in your body, that’s cool—find your teacher. Find someone who helps you make sense of the impossible.

If this only makes sense to one person, that’s awesome, because the world needs more headstanders!

Here are my headstand tricks and tips:

Tips for the Fearful:

Work in stages. Chip away at your practice. Start in a shape that is not scary and stay aware of how you feel as you progress into shapes that eventually turn into headstands. Walk into that fear, but only moment by moment.

Work with arm balances. Arm balances will help provide the necessary arm and shoulder engagement to rock a headstand, and they are super confidence-boosters. If you don’t have arm balances in your practice either, start working on them at home surrounded by pillows (I’m not kidding).

Give yourself time off. Commit to working with this stuff for ten minutes a week. Done. Maybe you won’t be in headstand any time soon, but you’ll sure be in a really cool internal place with yourself.

Tips for the Tight:

Please don’t cram your body. Your body doesn’t want to be crammed.

These are the tight areas that you will want to work on to rock your mid-room headstand: low-back spine, back-legs, shoulders (obviously) and psoas.

If you are super tight in these areas, maybe mid-room headstand is for next year. And that’s totally cool. As long as we are being honest and kind with ourselves, everything will turn out just fine. (Scratch that last part: everything is just fine the way it is.)

Tips for the Ready:

Make sure you’re warm! Open and build strength in the shoulder girdle and surrounding areas, warm up the inner thighs, hamstrings, and psoas especially. Make sure the entire core (front and back) is feeling strong today.

How to know you’re ready: if you can rock an engaged dolphin pose for about twenty breaths.

If you’ve never tried headstand at all, or if you’ve never tried headstand away from a wall, today might just be your day.

I’ve made you folks a video, so I can demonstrate how it makes sense in my own body. Please enjoy the video resolution and the expert lighting. (I worked really hard on it.)

Headstand Tricks


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Ed: Bryonie Wise

 photo: via Pinterest

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About Brentan Schellenbach

Brentan Schellenbach is a yoga teacher, writer and spiritual truth seeker. She teaches and writes for Pilgrimage of the Heart Yoga in San Diego, which serves over 1,000 yogis a week in person and online. She is dedicated to the study of herself and the world around her and offers knowledgeable insight from these observations. Connect with her on Facebook and Instagram and keep up with the different studio writers online. Take a class when you’re in town!


6 Responses to “For the Frustrated Headstander.”

  1. Helen says:

    Great post and loved the video. Thanks so much for sharing it, it made a lot of sense! <3

  2. Penny says:

    Great video! I loved your suggestions, the anatomical comments, and your presentation! Thank you!

  3. Cece says:

    As a relatively new headstander who has zero confidence away from the wall, this was very helpful. There are days when I think I'll never get to the middle of the room, but then I need to remind myself that first there were those 56 years when I told myself I'd never be able to do a headstand at all. So, what are a few days of fear, compared to the lifetime I have to conquer that fear? Thanks for the encouragement and instruction, Brentan!

  4. Sarah says:

    Thank you so much for this! I had a similar relationship to headstand, and it's great to feel like I'm not the only one who didn't just spring into inversions magically. I was ashamed of this weak point in my practice for so long, and for me overcoming those feelings was an even bigger accomplishment than inverting successfully.

  5. lisa says:

    great article and video..shared on my facebook pages with my fellow teachers and students!! thank you Brentan!

  6. Lalana says:

    Sharing on my FB page. So many are fearful of being upside down so will help I am sure:) Also…you are too cute!

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