Come on to all fours. Place the forearms on the floor and interlace the fingers. I like to tuck the bottom pinkie inside the clasped hands so it doesn’t get squished when you put weight on it. You want to bring your elbows a little bit closer together than shoulder width distance, as when you place weight on the forearms the skin will roll out and the elbows tend to get a little further apart. You want to end up with a pretty equally sided triangle between elbows and hands. Keep the shoulders broad and press begin to bring some weight into the forearms. Lay the crown of the head down on the floor with the back of the head either behind the hands if they are clasped or nestled into open palms. Some people like to place a blanket under their heads for a little cushion, but be aware that the increased give of the blanket can actually make balancing more difficult. Tuck the toes underneath and lift the knees off the floor.
At this point you have several options and modifications. Beginners will most likely start against a wall to get the sensation of being upside down without worrying about falling over. If you take the pose against the wall, make sure to place the hands no further than a couple of inches away. Having the hands further away from the wall then that leads to excessive arching in the back. No matter if you are against the wall or in the middle of the room, begin to walk the feet in toward the head and bring the hips up over the head. For those with sufficient flexibility, the hips will actually come further forward than the head to counterbalance the feet. Then, as weight is placed on the forearms, the legs will lift off the mat. The majority of the weight should stay in the forearms. Try not to collapse your weight onto the head. In the ideal world, the legs will be straight as they are lifted, though bending the knees means that the center of gravity is more toward the center line which makes it easier to find balance. You can start with bent legs if you like, then work your way toward straight.
For those with less hamstring flexibility, coming up even with bent legs will be difficult and you may need to resort to gently hopping the feet up. This is fine, but avoid just throwing the legs up, especially if relying on a wall. Try to stay in control and use only as much force to hop up as is required. Some people seem to insist on kicking up one leg at a time, and if this is you fine, but make sure to alternate the legs so you are not always kicking up with the same leg.
Once you have lifted the feet overhead, engage the serratus anterior (the muscles on the outside of the ribs) to keep the shoulder blades wide and engage the lats to draw the shoulder blades down the back (or up in this case) away from the head. Tuck the tailbone so the lower back lengthens and at the same time, roll the thighs in toward each other and press through the inner edges of the feet. The feet should be directly over the hips which should be directly over the head. The breath should be relaxed and steady.
While there are some inherent benefits just to spending a little time in headstand, I would encourage you to stay in the pose long enough that you continue to progress. In the beginning it will be hard work just making the attempt to come up, but often as people become proficient and steady in headstand, they get lazy and come down well before they truly find their edge. You can continue to add to the time spent in the pose or keep working to develop stability and strength by lowering and lifting the legs (as close to the floor as you can) until you begin to feel tired.
If you have any questions, please leave a comment below. I’d love to hear from you or see you at one of my classes!