I would be remiss to write a “Headstands 101” series of articles and not touch upon the topic of falling. Falling is the greatest fear in practicing any inversion. Nobody wants to fall because it feels so uncontrolled and unexpected and could result in an unwanted injury.
Today, I’m here to tell you that falling is a skill. You CAN and WILL turn your falls into transitions. You will no longer fall out of a headstand. When you feel your body wavering as you balance on your head, you will not flail around and fall flat onto your back. Instead, you will execute a controlled transition from one pose into another. The goal? Tripod headstand into a somersault. Once you master this transition, your headstand practice will soar to another level. When you can practice without fear, amazing things will happen on your mat. Let’s get started.
Channel Your Inner Kindergartener
First, remind yourself what it feels like to do a somersault. Squat down onto your mat as you rest on the balls of your feet. Keep your knees together and place your hands down onto the floor in front of you. Spread your fingers and begin to lean forward, putting pressure into your hands. Tuck your chin to your chest and place the back of your head onto the ground, slightly in front of your hands. Round your back, push off of your feet, and turn yourself into a tight ball. Somersaulting should not hurt! Keep practicing this move until it feels natural and smooth.
Once you feel comfortable somersaulting, come into a tripod egg to practice the exit strategy. If you need a refresher on getting into a tripod egg, click HERE to review the steps for this pose.
From your tripod egg, tuck your chin to your chest, round your back by squeezing your knees into your body, and safely roll out of the headstand. Practice this over and over until it is second nature to tuck and roll as soon as you feel as though you no longer have control of the pose and may tip over. Once you can tuck and roll out of a tripod egg, lift your knees from your triceps a few inches and try somersaulting again. Keep lifting your legs and practicing your forward roll until you can safely tuck and roll out of the full expression of the pose with your legs fully extended.
If you cannot master the somersault, don’t worry about it. You can always re-visit this transition at some later date. Until you can MASTER the somersault, however, you should NOT move your headstand practice away from the support of a wall. There is no purpose in practicing if you put yourself in danger. You must be able to safely exit a headstand in the middle of a room via forward roll, and until you are comfortable practicing somersaults, you should continue practicing with a wall behind you. This is all a process, so please do not be discouraged if you are struggling. It does not need to happen today. Or tomorrow. Or even a year from now. Let yoga be a lifelong practice. Be safe, have fun, and practice without fear.