How To Get into Headstand

Yoga with Bianca | Supported?Headstand

Supported headstand is one of the first inversions I learned when I got deeper into my yoga practice. I remember practicing the pose at home and usually by a wall. Then one day, I was in a yoga class and my mat was in the middle of the room. The instructor cued us through the pose by piking up our legs and I found the lift up and held the pose! I was so excited! It wasn’t until I learned to use core stability to pike up did this pose really click for me. In this post, I will show you how to get into headstand in a safe and accessible way.

Just to preface this tutorial, everyone’s body structure is different. Our muscles, joints, and bones are built differently and any injuries will also change the dynamic. If you experience any neck or shoulder injuries, I would refrain from spending time in headstand and opting for other inversions instead.

Here we go!

With any yoga pose you are attempting, you can use the following template to break down the pose:

Breaking Down Supported Headstand- SOUL

S-?Strengthen

Core, Shoulders

O-?Open

Shoulders

U-?Understand Muscle Action

Extension of hamstring muscles and core stabilization

L- Lengthen

Hamstrings

(Source of acronym:?Corepower Yoga?Level II Teacher Training)

Build-up Poses

Yoga Sequence

Before you go into headstand practice, I recommend flowing through sun salutations and a strength series for your core. You can practice the poses and vinyasa flow shown here, which will help warm up your body for this peak posture. You can incorporate the poses below in?your own flow.

Child’s Pose Variation

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This is a modification for child’s pose that opens up your triceps. I love starting in child’s pose because it is so grounding. This pose opens up your hips and shoulders. Try bringing your knees to mat distance or wider and bringing your big toes to touch. You can massage your forehead side to side to ease away tension. This is the perfect transition from your busy day into your yoga practice.

?Three-Legged Dog

three-legged-dogGround your palms into the mat in downward facing dog. Focus on pressing your knuckles down into the mat so you alleviate the pressure from your wrists. Stay in downward facing dog for a few breaths. Lift your leg up in space while keeping equal pressure on both palms and squaring your hips in line with one another. Keep breathing here, wrap your front ribs in and hug your belly button to your spine to keep your core engaged.

The tendency is for your hip to open up so you can lift your leg higher. It isn’t so much about how high your leg goes but more so on the position of your hips. This pose is great for working your glutes as well. Hold here for a few breaths then switch legs.

One-Legged Plank

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It’s important to have a strong core if you want to invert yourself. Find plank pose. Align your shoulders over your hips and press your weight into your hands and balls of your feet. Micro-bend your elbows to further work your arm muscles and core and avoid hyper-extending through your elbow joints. Form one line of energy from your heels all the way to the top of your head. Broaden through your chest and stay strong. When you feel stable in your plank, you can work on lifting one leg up. Keep your hips stable and squared to your mat and only lift your leg as high as hip height. Hold one side for three to five breaths and then switch.

Chaturanga

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Chaturanga is a foundational pose and is the key to unlocking most, if not all, yoga arm balances.?When I started yoga, I remember it took me a few months to be able to bend my elbows back and keep them by my sides (I’m still working on my alignment in this pose too 🙂 ).

Starting from high plank, inhale as you hinge your body forward onto your tippy toes. Keep your core strong and exhale as you lower halfway down by bending your elbows back. Keep your shoulder heads pulled back away from your ears. Avoid lowering down more than halfway as this will put a lot of pressure on your shoulders. Lengthen your tailbone back and keep your glutes in line with the rest of your body. If you feel too much pressure on your shoulders, lower your knees down and you will still get the strength benefits of the pose!

Forearm Plank Pose

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Forearm plank is one of my favorite static hold poses because it gets so much done! You can interlace your fingers or have them flat in a number “11” position. Stack your elbows right underneath your shoulders and keep them only shoulder width distance apart. A quick check is to cross your arms and capture your biceps with your hands– this will tell you how wide your base should be.

Use the same tips as plank from above. In this pose, press down through your forearms and work on hugging your shoulder blades together down your back. This will keep your upper body from sinking. Take deep breaths as you hold. Challenge yourself with this pose. Start out by holding your forearm plank for 30 seconds. Then keep upping your time as you go!

Hey, you never know when you’re going to be challenged to a plank contest. 😉 A few years ago, when I worked as an auditor at the Big Four, they flew us out to the East Coast for training.?My training room had people from investment management, banking, and insurance. They asked me to represent investment management in a plank competition as part of our team building activity. The last person standing err planking was a guy who held it for seven minutes! You know I held my own though!

Dolphin Pose and Dolphin Push-ups

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From your forearm plank, walk your feet in and find downward facing dog with your lower body. Lift your hips as high as you can and wrap your front ribs in. This is dolphin pose. As you gain flexibility in your hamstrings, you’ll be able to bring your feet closer and closer to your arms. You can hold dolphin for 3 to 5 breaths or more. From here, you can also practice dolphin push-ups.

Start from dolphin pose then exhale as you shift your body over to plank with your shoulders aligned over your elbows, then inhale as you lift your hips high for dolphin. Try 10 reps then rest in child’s pose.

Supported Headstand Pose

Headstand Base: Measuring the Crown of your Head

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The crown of your head is the foundation for any headstand. You can find the safest part of your head to balance on by placing your palm on your forehead. Where your middle finger meets the top of your head is the crown of your head. When you try headstand, place the crown of your head gently on the mat.

Headstand Layer 1: Leg Lifts

 

leg-lifts

Interlace your fingers and open your palms up. Rest your forearms on the mat at shoulder width distance. Place the crown of your head on the mat right in front of your open palms. Your palms should be supporting the back of your head. Supported headstand is great because most of the weight will actually be on your forearms (which is why shoulder strength is key).

Once you have the top part of your headstand set up, walk your feet as close in as you can. The higher your hips are, the easier it will be to get into the pose. Start by practicing lifting one leg up at a time while keeping your hips as square as you can. (When you open up your hip, it throws off your center and balance.)

It’s important to use your core and shoulder strength during your leg lifts. It’s best to avoid kicking up into handstand or using momentum because it can cause injury.

When you lift up one leg, try coming onto your tippy toes on your base leg. This will elevate your hips further.

Headstand Layer 2: Practice Pike

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pike-up

I personally think piking up is the safest way to enter into headstand. So once you feel like you are solid with your leg lifts, you can practice piking up!?There’s a low risk of toppling over?because one leg is close to the ground and can catch yourself if you tip over.

The key is pressing your weight through your forearms, activating your shoulders, and engaging your core. Most of your weight should be on your arms. ?

Start by lifting one leg up in space. Keep your hips as square as you can and walk your toes in as close to your torso as possible so you can get your hips above your shoulders. From here, use your glutes to keep lifting your raised leg as high as it can go. When you lift your top leg as high as you can while keeping your hips stable, your bottom leg will start to follow and lift up as well, as you can see in the series of photos above.

Keep breathing through this pose and try it on both sides! Stay persistent. Just remember, yoga is a practice.

Full Supported Headstand

half-headstand

You can also bend your knee on your way up! Find what works best with your body. After you are done playing with headstand, rest in embryo pose (which is child’s pose with your knees together and arms by your sides) for three to five breaths.

headstand

Here is a video showing you one way to get in and out of supported headstand. Go layer by layer, take it slow, and be brave! For more advanced variations, you can pike both legs up at the same time and add in fun poses using your legs (eagle, lotus, splits). I am so excited for the headstand breakthrough you will achieve! Please share with me your experience or feedback by?leaving a comment below.

??Bianca

7 Habits of Confident, Successful, and Content People

Confidence | Success | Contentment

These three states of being are universally sought after. If you’ve ever met someone who exudes these and more, you’ll know what I’m talking about. They are magnetic and curious about life. You want to spend time with them because their energy inspires you. They achieve success in any endeavor. In this post, I’ll share 7 habits you’ll find these people engaging in everyday.

How do they do it?

In my opinion, there?is no secret formula to this. While this seems to come naturally to some people, I think everyone can tap into the most?confident, successful, and content versions of themselves.

A year and six months ago, I read a book that truly impacted my life. This book was The Slight Edge?by Jeff Olson. My brother had just read the book and gave it to me during a time in my life where I felt stuck. I felt paralyzed because of life events that were outside of my control. The book set a framework for me and gave me practical things to think and act upon.

Let’s dig deeper.?

The Slight Edge‘s premise is this:

Your philosophy creates your attitude, your actions, your results, [which]?creates your life.

This book made it clear to me that I played an active role in the life I am living.

The people on the upper half of the slight edge curve are the cause of what happens in their lives. They view all the forces that brought them to this point– God, parents, teachers, childhood, circumstances, you name it– with gratitude and appreciation and without blame… The people on the upper curve take full responsibility for all the choices they make in their lives and in their work. ?

You and I have the ability to think, reason, and make small and big choices everyday. These choices, however small they seem, are actually the building blocks?of our lives. You multiply the impact of these choices when you factor in time.

Because of the effect of time on repeated actions, your moments truly count.

So let’s get to it!

7 Habits

The Slight Edge?lists the seven habits below and I’m adding some insights that I’ve observed and experienced. As you read this, you’ll realize that you probably already do these things. These habits are ingrained in us! But something special happens?when you become aware of them and can intentionally practice them as you go. This list applies to any area of life: fitness, relationships, career, you name it- the list stands.

1. Show Up

This is first for a reason. It’s been said that showing up is half the battle. This is where?the rubber hits the road; where our best intentions are tested. Preparation is key here. Make it easier for yourself by setting yourself up for success:

? Big presentation at work the next day? Finalize your talking points the day before and pick out an outfit that makes you look and feel your best!?

? Attempting to get up early to work out? Pack your bag the night before to keep yourself from making excuses. Then once your alarm goes off the next day, visualize the post-workout endorphins you’ll feel and you’ll definitely get out of bed.?

2. Be Consistent

If showing up is where the rubber hits the road, consistency is the fuel in your car on the road trip to your dreams. From what I’ve observed, consistency is the not-so-secret ingredient to success. When you commit to doing the thing day in and day out, the results will speak for itself.?Your talents and skills will develop even more as you put in the hard work. Yup,?even on days you don’t feel particularly motivated to.

? Make a realistic plan and stick to it. Figure out your “why” and you will persevere through anything. Don’t quit.?

? Life happens, so give yourself grace.

3. Have a Positive Outlook

This one is my favorite. Positivity is a muscle. Work it out.?I think positivity starts with gratitude. It requires seeing the good in the midst of the struggle. It is a posture of humility, hope, and openness. Positivity is knowing deep down that things always have a way of working themselves out. Positivity doesn’t mean you’ll be smiling?24/7 and you’ll experience no negative emotions. Your positive attitude is tested best when things aren’t going your way.

? Practice zooming out of the situation at hand and reframing.?

? Learn to reflect before you react.?

4. Be Committed for the Long Haul?

Oh, time. Some things just take time. I’ve always believed that time is neutral. It isn’t good or bad; I think it depends on what you’re doing with that time. Malcolm Gladwell came up with the 10,000 hour rule: the key to success in any endeavor is to put in about 10,000 hours of practice. That’s?a lot of time!

? Patience is everything. Life has a natural ebb and flow. You can’t force or rush things. Sometimes we just have to learn to be still.?

? Break it down to smaller portions of time that you can manage -> x minutes each day, x times every week.?

5. Cultivate a Burning Desire Backed by Faith

Jeff Olson said it best-

A burning desire backed by faith means deeply, passionately wanting to get somewhere and knowing — not hoping, not wishing, but knowing that you’re going to get there.?

You have to want it. You have to believe you can.

6. Be Willing to Pay the Price

Opportunity costs for days. There’s just no getting around this one. Since there aren’t any shortcuts and you have to show up and be consistent over a long period of time, you’re going to end up with choices. This is the most challenging part of the process because you are going to have to say no to good enough so you can say yes to the best.

? Find the balance that works for you. People might not understand your journey. It’s not your job to make them understand or obtain everyone’s approval.?

? Prioritize and make time for what’s truly important. Value relationships.

? Discipline is choosing between what you want now and what you want most. -Craig Groeschel

7. Practice Integrity

There’s nothing more attractive than a person of integrity. Strength of character is absolutely timeless. CS Lewis defined integrity as “doing the right thing even when no one is watching.” No one is perfect and we are all works in progress. Know who you are and be you in every setting you find yourself in. Align your actions with your words.

? Trust your intuition.

? Choose purpose over popularity. -Craig Groeschel

I hope you enjoyed reading about the seven habits of confident, successful and content people through the framework of?The Slight Edge. How do you live out these habits in your own life? I’d love to hear your insights!

??Bianca

How To Get into Splits Pose

Yoga with Bianca |?Splits Pose

The splits is one of my favorite poses! While I practiced this pose years ago in ballet, I lost a lot of that flexibility as the years went by. When I first attempted it again as an adult, my hips were more than a foot above the ground. With intentional stretching?over a period of a few months, I was able to eventually rest my hips on the ground. In this post, I will show you how to get into splits pose with photos and a video.

Just to preface this tutorial, everyone’s body structure is different. Our muscles, joints, and bones are built differently and any injuries will also change the dynamic. Everyone’s splits will look different, but take this tutorial as a foundation.

So let’s get started!

With any yoga pose you are attempting, you can use the following template to break down the pose:

Breaking Down Splits Pose- SOUL

S-?Strengthen

Core

O-?Open

Hips: Outer hips and hip flexors

U-?Understand Muscle Action

Extension of hamstring muscles and core stabilization?to hold you upright

L- Lengthen

Hamstrings and quads

(Source of acronym:?Corepower Yoga?Level II Teacher Training)

Build-up Poses

Forward Fold

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Start with your knees shoulder width distance apart or wider.?Bend your knees and let your chest rest over your thighs.?Allow your head to hang heavy and feel the release of tension from your neck and shoulders.?After a few deep breaths in and out through your nose, work on straightening your legs.?It’s totally fine if your fingertips don’t touch the ground, your hamstrings will open up over repeated practice.?For the fullest expression of this pose, place your palms flat on the mat with your fingertips in line with your toes.?Hold the pose for 3 to 10 breaths depending on how much time you have.

Downward Facing Dog

This one deserves a whole post on its own so I’ll break down down dog (had to ;p) in the future but this is a great pose to lengthen your calves, hamstrings, and spine.?You can take organic movements in this pose by “walking” out your dog by bending one knee and the other, nodding your head “yes” and “no”, or taking shoulder dips. Bend your knees slightly to find more length in your spine. Keep your core engaged, palms flat on the mat, shoulders away from ears. Stay here for three to ten breaths.

?Crescent Moon

img_2228

This is one of my favorite poses and I try to incorporate it in each class I teach. Our hip flexors get shortened everyday because most of us sit all day. Align your hips over your back knee. If you have sensitive knees, you can rest your knee on a block or double roll your mat. Position your front knee at a 45 degree angle so your knee stacks over your ankle to protect your knee joint. Lengthen your spine and keep your core and glutes engaged to feel this pose even more. Hold for 3 to 5 breaths and make sure you do both sides to balance out your body.

Half Splits

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From crescent moon, slide your front heel up as far as it takes to straighten your front leg. Keep your hips aligned above your back knee. Flex your front toes towards your face and work on squaring your hips to the front of your space. Feel free to keep a slight bend in your front knee or use blocks underneath each palm to bring the ground closer to you. With every inhale, lift your spine to a half-lift like the second photo and with every exhale fold deeper into your front leg. Keep moving through this flow as many breaths as you have time for to create space in your hamstrings.

Pyramid Pose

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This pose is so grounding. Start from Warrior I then straighten your front leg. Lengthen your torso towards the front while keeping?your hips squared then fold over your front leg. Continue to ground your back heel down to your mat to lengthen your calves and hamstrings. Repeat the inhale half-lift, exhale-fold flow similar to half splits above.

Standing Splits

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You’ll find that you can invert most?yoga poses and keep the same shape. Standing splits is basically splits but just on your feet! Square your hips to the ground when you lift your top leg up. Point your lifted toes to the mat and press your heel up in space. Picture the inseam of your lifted leg spiraling up to the ceiling. Take a microbend in your standing leg to protect your knee joint. It doesn’t matter how high your leg goes here, you will still experience the benefits of the pose with proper alignment! To make this pose more challenging, walk your fingertips closer to your standing leg or add a balance challenge by holding onto your shins. To ease the pose, use blocks underneath your hands or lower your lifted leg.

Half Pigeon

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This by far was one of the most uncomfortable poses for me when I first started doing yoga. Start in a three-legged downward facing dog. Take your right knee towards your right wrist and right toes toward your left wrist. Try to work your shin as parallel to the top of you mat as you can while still keeping your back kneecap on the mat. This alignment will take time and practice. You may find that your shin is angled at a 45 degree angle at first.

Check that your?back foot is angled straight and the tops of your toes press on the mat. Balance your weight equally on both hips. Take deep inhales to send your breath into the tight spaces around your hip. You can stay upright in this pose or come onto your forearms or chest. Hold for 5 to 10 breaths. Your release is three legged down dog and I like to take knee circles to further open up the hip joint.

Splits

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Now you’re ready and warmed up to try full splits! I recommend having two blocks within reach when you try this for the first time. Start in half splits (see above) then slide your heel forward until your front leg straightens as much as it can. Point your front kneecap towards the ceiling. Then, slowly slide your back knee in space until you have reached your maximum stretch. Continue to square your hips forward. A test to see if you are doing this right is your back kneecap and back thigh will be facing or resting?onto the mat.

If you have two blocks, place your blocks on either side of your hips and rest your palms on top of each block. Use your tricep and core strength to keep your body lifted against gravity. Work on breathing calmly in this pose. Hold here for 3 to 5 breaths. If there is only a block height of space from yourself and the mat, you can sit on a block and work on steady breaths in and out. This pose will take practice so give yourself a lot of grace! To get out of the pose, press your hands into the mat and?use your core strength to slowly lift your hips off the ground or the block. Be gentle with yourself. As a counter stretch, bring both legs in front of you for seated forward fold and stay for a few breaths.

Bringing it all Together- Yoga Flow

Now let’s see all these poses in action! Remember to breathe and have fun with it! Hope you enjoyed this tutorial and please feel free to comment below with feedback, questions or requests.

??Bianca