Let’s be honest, the headstand, or sirsasana, is one of the most impressive yoga poses out there. It requires a combination of strength, balance, knowledge, skill, and—needless to say—patience.
Headstands are generally considered to be advanced yoga poses, as a result.
But here’s the thing: you don’t have to be an expert yogi with years of experience to start training to achieve your first headstand.
In fact, beginners can start training for headstands as soon as desired – as long as the journey is approached with the right steps.
In this guide, find out everything you need to know about yoga headstands, including the difficulty of headstands, how long it takes to learn headstands, and, as a bonus, how to work towards your first handstand.
Headstand Vs Handstand – Differences Explained
First of all, it’s important to establish the difference between headstands and handstands.
Headstands and handstands are not the same despite being similar, so it’s important to understand what makes them different, which one is harder, and, due to that, which one you should try first.
This guide also talks about both, so make sure to not get them mixed up!
Despite the name, headstands do not involve balancing on your head alone. Your head touches the ground, but it’s your forearms holding your weight as the rest of your body forms a perfect upright shape, using balance and proprioception.
As for handstands, these involve balancing on your hands. Your head is not touching the ground, and your entire body needs to be fully engaged to maintain balance and good upright form.
As a result, handstands are by far harder than headstands. So, if you are yet to try either one, headstands should be the first to shoot for!
How Hard Is A Headstand?
Headstands are generally considered advanced yoga poses. This is because headstands involve a mixture of strength and balance, requiring various muscles to be activated to maintain the pose.
Headstands also involve proprioception – the ability to sense where your body is in space without visual aid.
Of course, when your legs and feet are held in the air in a perfect line, it requires skill and patience to get used to and achieve!
So, headstands are far from easy. But the good news is that you can start practicing headstands early on in your yoga journey. And this is typically done with assistance from a wall.
How Long Does It Take To Do A Headstand?
So, how long will it take you to learn to achieve a headstand?
For wall assisted headstands, these can be achieved quickly, or at least after a few weeks of practice.
For unassisted/freestanding headstands, these take much longer—months, for example—as it requires achieving a good level of balance.
It should go without saying that fitter, stronger individuals will be able to achieve headstands quicker than those who are considered unfit or overweight.
However, most young people with good general fitness can do wall assisted handstands without prior training.
The Benefits of Headstands (+ Muscles Worked)
As an advanced yoga pose that requires months of consistent training, there are many benefits to doing, and also learning, headstands!
- Increasing strength
- Building muscle
- Improving balance and proprioception
- Improving stamina
- A constant sense of achievement!
As for the muscles worked during headstands, these include the shoulders (front deltoids), back muscles (trapezius and latissimus dorsi), forearm muscles, wrists, core muscles, lower back, and gluteus muscles.
How To Do A Yoga Headstand
The first step to unlocking your first yoga headstand is to practice against a wall. This is done by positioning your forearms and head in front of the wall and kicking your legs up into a headstand pose.
The wall offers support with balance, and also prevents you from falling over onto your back.
For added support, you can place a cushion or folded towel underneath your head to make the exercise more comfortable to begin with.
For good headstand form, your head should be aligned beside your forearms. To balance, engage your core muscles and glutes while elongating your body and pointing your toes as much as possible.
Once wall headstands become easier (you can comfortably balance for a few seconds), it’s possible to gradually move away from the wall until you are confidently kicking up into a freestanding headstand without falling over.
How To Do A Handstand
Handstands are much harder than headstands, simply because they require loading all your bodyweight onto your hands and shoulders while maintaining balance – using not only your core muscles, legs, and feet, but your fingertips and palms.
Much like learning headstands for the first time, it’s recommended to practice handstands by kicking up into the handstand using a wall for assistance and support.
In this case, the goal is alignment: to have your shoulders stacked over your wrists, your hips stacked over your shoulders, and your feet stacked over your hips.
And to maintain handstand balance, it’s important to fully elongate (stretch) and engage all the muscles of your body while holding the position.
Once you begin to get the feel of handstand balance (you can comfortably balance for a few seconds), it’s then possible to start moving away from the wall until you can confidently kick up into a handstand without falling over.
The short answer? The best way to learn to do a yoga headstand is by practicing against a wall. This involves getting into position with your forearms and head on the ground, then kicking up into a headstand to get a feel of the inversion and start practicing balance.
Once you are able to balance for a few seconds, it’s possible to gradually start moving away from the wall to work on achieving an unassisted, freestanding yoga headstand.
Most relatively fit people can start practicing headstands early into their yoga journeys.
Despite that, safety is important, so make sure to practice against a wall, with a cushion or folded towel placed underneath your head, using a thick yoga mat/crash mat, and, if desired, with a yoga instructor or accompanying friend.