Find a funky balance in this hybrid Headstand-Forearm Stand variation.
Ashtanga Yoga's second series offers seven headstands where the yogi needs to find their balance and center to maintain the strength of Headstand while moving their arms into all sorts of interesting variations. These are the last group of poses in the series for a reason—they're hard! This Funky Headstand is a hybrid pose inspired by the Ashtanga headstands.
It's important to have a solid grasp on your Headstand practice before you spice it up, so if you're new to Tripod Headstand or Forearm Balance, I highly recommend you click the links below to focus on those poses in your practice first. If you have a good grip on them—read on! The joy of yoga is that it is limitless and all we need is intelligence, awareness, and a sense of adventure. Funky Headstand is a great hybrid of Tripod Headstand and Forearm Balance. Dive into the practice below, and work with a wall behind you if you've never tried this (even if you balance in the middle of the room with each pose) until you've adjusted to your new foundation. Have fun!
For a full breakdown of Tripod Headstand, visit my previous Challenge Pose post.
Start in Dophin Pose with your palms flat, shoulder-width apart and the crown of your head on the ground. Your elbows will create a 90-degree angle. Curl your toes under and walk your feet in creating straight legs and lifted hips. Place your right knee onto your right arm followed by the left to left. Lift the hips up as the thighs draw tight to the chest. Stay as compact as possible to help your center of gravity. Every few breaths remind yourself to lift the shoulders and keep the elbows in. Once the hips stack over the shoulders, the weight of the legs will lessen and the core will connect. Hook through the lower belly to lightly pull the knees off the arms into a pike position in your chest. Keep the inner heels and big toes touching as the legs draw up towards the ceiling as if being sucked through a straw. Hug the inner thighs to the midline, expand through the backs of the knee caps and spread the toes. From here you can reverse the process back into Child’s Pose, or flex the feet, keep the body strong like Plank Pose, and drop into Chaturanga.
Get my full breakdown on how to do Pincha Mayurasana.
Start in Dolphin Pose with both of your forearms parallel to each other and shoulder-width apart. Curl your toes under and straighten the legs as you walk your feet in toward your elbows making sure that the shoulder stay parked over the elbows. Take a leg up into a Standing Splits reach. Bend the bottom leg and take tiny hops up toward the pose. If this is not enough energy to get you all the way to the wall, use a bit more kick-off power. Remember to activate the lower leg the second it leaves the ground! This extra energy will help to pull it all the way up into the pose. Once the legs are at the wall try flexing the feet and dragging the heels up the wall to elongate the low back. The tailbone should reach toward the ceiling as the frontal ribs soften toward the spine to remove the "banana" in the back. Keep the gaze slightly forward to prevent strain in the neck and breath freely. Take one leg away from the wall back to the ground and drop to the knees into Child’s Pose.
The major key to this pose is the set up of the arms. Start on your hands and knees. Place the right forearm down as if preparing for Pincha Mayurasana. Take the left palm flat so that the fingertips are in line with the right elbow. The arms are shoulder-width apart. Bend the left elbow to a 90-degree angle just like in Chaturanga: elbow over wrist, shoulder head in line with elbow. Straighten one leg at a time until you are in (Funky) Plank. Keep the gaze forward to extend the chest, hug the left elbow in over the wrist as the right shoulder head continues to lift. Scoop the tailbone, lift the kneecaps, and extend through the heels. Take 8 breaths and then rest in Child’s Pose. Reverse the arm positioning and repeat these actions.
Time to make a hybrid, baby! Start on your knees and set up your funky arms—place your left forearm down on the ground and place your right palm flat so it is in line with your left elbow but shoulder-width apart. Tuck your chin and place the crown of your head down in the middle of the two arms roughly lined up with the center of your forearm. Curl your toes under and take a "funky Dolphin" variation as you walk the feet in and lift the hips. If you have the flexibility to pull both legs up at the same time, you can press up into your Headstand keeping the hips high, core in, and thighs squeezing to the midline (smart to practice with a wall behind you if this is new). Otherwise, lift one leg up like a standing split and practice small hops bending the bottom leg to pull both up to the wall. The key is to keep the forearm elbow rooting and the tripod shoulder lifting with the elbow squeezing in. If you can keep your foundation solid, you're set—just avoid the banana in the back by corseting your ribs in toward each other, lifting your tailbone, and keeping the legs engaged and reaching towards the ceiling. Try for 8 breaths then release into a nice, long Child's Pose.
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.