Get full access to Outside Learn, our online education hub featuring in-depth yoga, fitness, & nutrition courses, when you sign up for Outside+.
Kathryn Budig demonstrates the transition from Tripod Headstand into Chaturanga.
I’ve seen seriously strong yogis go weak in the knees at the prospect of dropping into Chaturanga from Headstand. It just goes to show how mental this transition is. You don’t need superhero strength, you just need to tell yourself you can. There’s no room for doubting when it comes to the fast-twitch transitions (almost all of yoga is slow twitch).
Think about Tripod Heastand for a minute—it is Chaturanga it just happens to be on the crown of your head. The body is in a plank position (Chaturanga Dandasana) and the arms are already in the same stance as Chaturanga—shoulders in line with elbows, elbows over wrists. So basically, the only thing that needs to change to fall into the pose is your gaze—it needs to go forward. We’re going to tackle the full, classic drop next week but for today’s blog, I want you to get strong. I want you to feel in control of your body so that dropping doesn’t intimidate you. Today’s transition is a variation on the full variation and, honestly, more graceful. I use this transition when I’m feeling more feminine or if I’m feeling short on energy. Just remember to link your breath to every move you make.
Place the crown of your head onto the mat with your palms flat and shoulder-width apart. The hands should be far enough away from your head so that your elbows stack directly over your wrists. Curl your toes under so that you come into Dolphin Pose. Walk your feet in, helping the hips lift up. For this exercise in particular, if you can press up into your Headstand (pull your legs up into the pose as opposed to using your arms as a ladder), that will help in gaining control and strength for the impending drop. Otherwise, use your best means of getting into the pose: either hopping up or placing your knees onto your arms first then cannon-balling your way up.
From Headstand, reaffirm your foundation before you get ready to shift your weight. When weight in the legs shifts, the same happens in the shoulders. But we don’t want that to happen here because it could possibly tweak the neck. Hug your inner thighs together and spread your toes strongly. Begin to lower your legs as a team toward a 90-degree angle. If this is too intense on the core or you can’t keep your shoulders supported, just do baby lowers until you have the stability to get to 90 degrees. Hold there for 5 breaths, then return your legs up into a full Headstand.
Once you’ve become strong in Step 2, it’s time to try lowering your legs even more. Just remember: The closer your legs get to the ground, the heavier your shoulders will be. so keep them lifting and your elbows hugging in! Begin by trying to lower your legs beyond the 90-degree angle and, with time, see if you can lightly tap your toes onto the ground. The goal isn’t to set the toes down, in fact, never stop thinking “up.” Keep the legs hugging tightly to the midline, and think of your upper front thighs touching your core. Take one breath and return your legs to full Headstand.
Time to add some flicking and breath work! We’re going to take the strength that you’ve created from steps 2 and 3, and use it to flick your legs back to land in Chaturanga. It’s best to do this action connected to the breath. Our thoughts and fear are the biggest obstacles to making this transition, so if you cue your action to the breath instead of to your thoughts, your ability to make this transition gets stronger.
Stabilize your foundation by lifting the shoulder heads up and hugging your elbows in over your wrists, with even weight through your fingers. Inhale and begin to lower your legs as a team to just a pinch below the Pike position. Exhale and flick your legs (it might even feel like you’re taking them back up a bit) back as you push deeply into your hands and whip your gaze forward. Use a strong exhale if you need to in order to help the transition move smoothly. Don’t linger in the inhale part of the transition. Make your breath and movement committed and smooth.
ABOUT KATHRYN BUDIG
Kathryn Budig is jet-setting yoga teacher who teaches online at Yogaglo. She is the Contributing Yoga Expert for Women’s Health Magazine, Yogi-Foodie for MindBodyGreen, creator of Gaiam’s Aim True Yoga DVD, co-founder of Poses for Paws and author of Rodale’s The Women’s Health Big Book of Yoga. Follow her on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram or on her website.