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.
The seated get up is a way of getting into the one legged squat from a seated position. Even if you aren't interested in one leg squats this video does include tips on stabilizing the knees (at about the 5 minute mark.) Usual muscle activations for knee stability might include the quads, the hamstrings or any of the glutes. This looks at another set of muscles all together. If you like the video or find it helpful, please do share it! Thanks!
Some tips for learning how to do deep squats (without weight). The first tip is on how to stay balanced while squatting.
How do you learn the body weight safely? How do you work towards this pose even if you aren't sure if you are capable of doing it.
Basic yoga poses: standing, sitting, arm balances, binds, twists, inversions, back bending, front bends.
Scapular stabilization becomes a little bit harder when working agains the weight of the body. It can be easier to learn if you gradually increase the amount of body weight the scapular stabilizer muscles are working againsts..
Some hip flexor strengthening exercises.
These yoga poses can be used as arm strengthening exercises.
Turn yoga poses into leg strengthening exercises using floor pressing actions, leverage and friction.
One way of finding and fixing hip problems is to do standing hip strengthening exercises while balancing on one leg.
Knee anatomy for yoga teachers looks at the bones and muscles that comprise the back of the knee in simple terms.
Working towards a kneeling quadriceps stretch you first need to be able to kneel. If you have difficulty kneeling, you may find it helps to activate your quadriceps.
When doing quadriceps stretching it may help to activate and then relax your quadriceps in these standing, lunging, pigeon and supine yoga pose variations.
Some exercises and yoga poses for working towards a lying quadriceps stretch one leg at a time.
What are the benefits of the Dance of Shiva? Arm strength and balance, learning to learn and improving creativity.
This yoga routine video is designed to help you strengthen your arms and legs via the use of friction and pressure. It also teaches you how to become more aware of your body.
The transverse abdominis muscle can be broken down into three parts. Transverse abdominal exercises can thus affect the SI Joint, lumbar spine and the lower portion of the ribcage.
To improve the resiliency of your knees it can help to exercise them in a variety of positions. The following yoga poses can be used as knee strengthening exercises. The trick is to activate your knees while doing them.
Learn to consciously control your quads and hip flexors with Conscious Muscle Control: Quads and Superficial Hip Flexors. This downloadable video course teaches you how to feel and activate your quadriceps (the vastus muscles) as well as the rectus femoris, tensor fascae latae and sartorius muscles.
For any calf stretch you have to bend your ankle forwards to stretch the soleus and/or gastrocnemius. How you bend the ankle forwards can make the stretch more or less effective.
Yoga for flexibility with stretches for the hips, quads, hamstrings, glutes, psoas, shoulders and arms. These yoga stretches are designed to improve flexiblity.