The Right Way

3 Form Mistakes That Are Preventing You From Nailing a Perfect Headstand

Rachel Lapidos

Anyone who says that yoga is an easy, breezy workout has never attempted a headstand. There are countless advanced, twisty or upside-down poses in yoga that can make stepping onto the mat as much of a challenge as a HIIT class. Out of all of them, inversions can be some of the toughest to nail—but Nike master trainer Traci Copeland is here to give you the intel on how to do a headstand on your own.

In this week’s episode of The Right Way—Well+Good’s YouTube series that breaks down workout moves so that you do them correctly—Copeland details the foundational steps that lead you to the perfect headstand. The most important thing to remember when attempting the pose? “Whenever you get into a headstand, it should never feel forced,” she says. “It should feel like you’re naturally getting upside down with ease and control… just like with every other yoga pose that you do.”

If you’re a yogi who’s always shied away from headstands because it’s just never happened for you, know that you can build up the strength (and hey, a least it’s not a handstand). Once you start working on proper form, you’ll be able to reap the unique benefits of getting upside down. Because, inversions don’t just look cool—poses like headstands and legs up the wall can give your brain a boost. Peloton instructor Ross Rayburn previously told Well+Good that inversions can help with brain fog, so that afternoon slump is all the more reason to turn things upside down.

Now for the logistics of the staple inversion—keep scrolling for the top three form mistakes that Copeland sees people make when doing a headstand, so that you know to avoid these in your practice. Then press play on the video to learn what you should do to get yourself upside down.

1. Improper elbow placement

Oftentimes, Copeland sees people flare their elbows out to the sides when attempting a headstand. “That’s not the proper way to hold [the position], and you don’t have the support in your elbows to help you maintain proper alignment,” she says.

2. Using momentum

A headstand actually uses a ton of core strength… unless you kick your legs to get into the pose. “A lot of people tend to, instead of using core strength, they tend to just kick their leg off of the ground and expect their strength to hold them there,” says Copeland.

3. Putting too much force on the head

While it is technically a headstand, you don’t want to put all of your weight on your skull. Copeland says that this is another big form mistake that she often sees when really you should feel your weight in your arms more than anything.

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