In headstand yoga pose, particularly bound headstand, which is a fairly common inverted yoga pose, the elbows and hands form a triangle shape.
If the elbows are too wide then we lose the triangle shape and the foundation becomes more of straight line, offering as much stability as standing on a single skate.
If the elbows are about shoulder width apart then the triangle forms a base that potentially gives the pose stability both in the front to back direction (longitudinal) as well as the left/right direction (transverse.) I say potentially because just configuring the head and arms in a triangle shape isn't enough to balance in this pose.
To stay balanced in this pose the elbows have to press down into the floor.
What creates the pushing force that drives the elbows into the floor?
To improve balance in headstand (or to be able to get up into headstand in the first place) one of the exercises that I have my students practice is moving the shoulder blades outwards and inwards while standing upright with hands clasped behind their head.
Because its the shoulders that press the elbows into the floor when doing headstand yoga pose.
In this exercise, moving the shoulder blades outwards (protraction) will cause the elbows to lift while moving the shoulder blades inwards (retraction) will cause the elbows to lower.
Upside down in bound headstand, to increase the downward pressure of the elbows, spread the shoulder blades. The muscle that causes protraction is the serratus anterior muscle. And in headstand this muscle works against the weight of the body to help stabilize it.
Pressing the elbows downwards with just enough pressure, your can keep your center of gravity over your foundation.
If your weight shifts forwards then increase elbow pressure to push your body backwards. If you feel your center going the other way, and if you respond early enough, then letting the shoulder blades move towards each other, you can reduce elbow pressure enough that your weight shift forwards enough to stay balanced.
Note that neck tension is also important in headstand in order to keep the neck safe.
Rather than working against the weight of the body, the muscles of the neck work against each other to keep the neck stable.
Now with the hands clasped behind the head in such a way that the sides of the palms are also on the floor, if you find your weight shifting back then you may be able to use hand pressure to push your center of gravity forwards. In this case it is the triceps muscle (at the back of the upper arm) that is used to increase tension.
In either case, the more you feel your connection with the earth and the more you use it, the easier it is to work at staying balanced while doing headstand yoga pose.
How to Do a Headstand includes step-by-step sequence of exercises to get you ready for this inverted yoga pose.
So how do you stay balanced while lifting up into yoga headstand with legs straight? It helps to understand that the legs have weight. As you lift them to horizontal they are going to tip you in one direction. So you need to move your hips in the opposite direction to stay balanced.
So that you know how far back to move your hips it helps if you focus on feeling your foundation.
Friction and pressure are two simple techniques that I use to help my students get stronger and more flexible. These simple techniques also offer a roadway into not only learning how to activate your muscles, but getting a feel for them and your body. Three challenging yoga poses that I use these techniques in are chaturanga, front splits and side splits. While they might not help you get all the way down into the splits, they'll help you feel stronger, and more integrated as you work towards them. And because I've got to pay for my daughters schooling this week, I'm offering a discount on the frictional muscle control videos. (First 100 people only can save over 30%).
Active stretching teaches you muscle control to not only improve flexibility but also body awareness. You'll learn how to adjust postures for better feel as well as more control through a broader range of motion.
Standing exercises for low back pain plus anatomy that can affect the low back and how to use that anatomical understanding.
Experience your body (and understand it) with sensational yoga poses.
Is it a bad idea to heel strike while barefoot running? What are the possible benefits of heel striking? When should you not heel strike?
These yoga poses for abs work on the abdominal muscles (and hips) in both standing positions and seated positions.
Sensational yoga poses, lessons to help you enjoy the experience of your body.
Here are the Ashtanga Standing Pose Vinyassas, with inhale movements highlighted in red.
These seated yoga poses have been organized into a rough routine and include lotus, virasana, janu sirsasana and marichyasana variations as well as more basic seated poses like bound angle, pigeon and seated forward bend.
In this preparation for compass pose use your arms to pull your leg towards you for a seated hamstring stretch. To modify, use a strap.
Single joint hip flexors include iliacus, pectineus, obturators, gemelli and gluteus minimus. Use them to help improve your forward bends.
Sensational Yoga ebooks and videos are designed to help you experience your body while focusing on specific poses, actions or parts of the body.
Extreme stability teaches you how to work from the ground up when creating stability, whether you are doing poses on your hands or your feet (or some combination of both).
The working towards wheel pose ebook teaches you basic body first so that you can feel and control your spine, hips and shoulders, so that working towards difficult poses (in this case wheel pose) is easier.
The Muscle control for better flexibility ebook teaches you simple muscle activation techniques that can make it easier to improve your flexibility. Techniques focus on forward and back bending the hips but can be applied to other movements also.
Building up on the material for part 1, Yoga for Beginners 2 teaches you how to make your body stable for a slightly different experience of your hips and shoulders.
Video: This set of simple hip control exercises help you to stabilize the hip joint and control it. You may find these exercises help you improve hamstring and hip flexor strength and flexibility.
One approach to learning yoga is to simply practice yoga poses. The approach in Yoga For Beginners 1 is to help you to learn to feel your body while doing yoga poses.
Some of the exercises in Balance Basics includes learning to balance on the fronts of your feet as well as on one foot using weight shifting exercises. It also includes exercises for crow pose. I've included videos based on the balanace exercises in the book on this page.