How to Build Up to Tripod Headstand

Leah Sugerman
How to Build Up to Tripod Headstand

Tripod headstand, or Salamba Sirsasana II, is a posture of both strength and stability. This beautiful variation of headstand opens the door to a plethora of fun transitions on your mat as you flow from inversion to arm balances and beyond.

This supported headstand requires great attention to detail and intelligence in the body to safely perform. It also requires a great deal of upper body and core strength.

So, as you’re working toward building up the strength for tripod headstand, always keep in mind that there are many steps along the way to prepare you for the full posture and it is totally legitimate to stay in any of those steps for weeks, months or even years as you build up strength, courage and stability to realize the full posture.

Here are some guidelines and tips (complete with different stopping points to practice) to working toward reaching a full tripod headstand:

Set Your Foundation

Creating a stable and secure foundation is one of the most important aspects of any yogic posture. Do not underestimate the power of the basics to create a powerful pose.

Begin kneeling on your knees. Find the crown of your head by placing them where your wrist meets your palm directly at your third eye center (the space between your eyebrows). From here, where you find your middle finger land is the crown of your head.

Remember this place as the foundation of your headstand. This is where you want to base your inversion (not too far forward toward your forehead or too far back toward your neck but directly on the crown of your head so that your neck can remain lengthened throughout the posture.

  • Release your hands directly beside your knees so that they are shoulder-width apart.
  • Spread your fingers wide and create even space between your fingers.
  • Press down firmly against your palms and grip at the mat with your fingertips.
  • Hug your elbows in toward the midline so that you can create perfect 90-degree angles in your arms.
  • Release the crown of your head (the space you just found) at about a 60-degree angle in front of your hands to create an equilateral triangle between your hands and your head.

Note: You should be able to see both hands completely with your head down against the floor. If you cannot see your hands, your head is too close and you need to create a larger triangle base. This is the foundation of your tripod. Be sure that it is stable and secure before placing weight on your foundation.

Press down very firmly into your palms. Try to maintain 80 percent of your weight in your arms, holding a mere 20 percent or less in your head. Be very cautious to maintain a lengthened neck in this posture, always elongating the crown of your head and the base of your neck in opposite directions.

Prepare

As noted, there are many steps to practice along the way building up to tripod headstand. After setting the foundation, you are already in step one.

Your head is now below your heart so you are receiving the benefits of an inversion practice. Feel free to stay practicing in this place for as long as you would like until you feel fully comfortable to move on.

Once you are ready, you can begin to prep toward the full posture.

  • Continue to press firmly into your palms and actively engage your core.
  • Hug your belly button toward your back body and cinch in your waistline as if you're tightening a corset.
  • Tuck all ten toes underneath and inhale to lift your knees up off of the floor, extending your hips toward the ceiling. You will notice significantly more weight into your head here. Try to counterbalance this by pressing harder into your palms.
  • Imagine pressing the floor away from yourself to redistribute your weight into your arms to support you. This is step two.
  • Feel free to remain here building strength for as long as it feels appropriate.

If you feel comfortable, you can slowly begin to tiptoe your feet in to walk closer toward your hands. The goal here is to align your hips directly over your shoulders (or as close as possible). The more aligned your spine becomes, the easier it will be to float up into full headstand.

If you feel steady, you can lift one leg up off of the mat and draw your knee to rest on the shelf that your arm is creating. Keep the core firmly engaged and align your spine as much as possible.

Continuously press the floor away with your palms to keep the majority of your weight steady in your hands (rather than on your head). If it feels appropriate, you can also lift the opposite leg off the floor and draw your knee to rest on the other arm that is creating a shelf.

Energetically hug your knees toward each other. This is step three. Stay practicing here for as long as you would like.

Working To The Peak

Once you feel ready to work toward the full variation of tripod headstand, you will need to fully recruit the muscles of your core to float your legs up toward the sky. The core is a crucial element to any inversion and tripod headstand is no different.

This integral system needs to be properly engaged and prepared to effectively achieve this pose. Be sure that as you're working toward the full variation that you NEVER kick into a headstand position.

Your neck is in an extremely vulnerable position and kicking with force and momentum into the pose can cause serious injury. If your core is not yet ready to float the weight of your legs up into the full variation (as it is very difficult!), then stay and work in any of the preparatory steps described above.

However, once you are fully prepared, check in with your strong foundation.

  • Lengthen your neck, press firmly into your hands and elongate your spine, stacking hips over shoulders.
  • Squeeze your legs into the midline and fire up your core.
  • Slowly and carefully lift your knees up off of your arms and immediately hug them tightly into your chest.
  • Realign your hips over your shoulders and slowly begin to float your legs straight up toward the sky, hugging them in toward each other the whole way up.
  • Try your best to create a straight line from head to toes. Extend up through your feet and press down into your hands.
  • Lengthen your whole spine in opposing directions.
  • Keep drawing in on your core, elongating your neck and maintaining a steady rhythm to your breath.

When you feel ready, slowly release out the way that you came into the posture and relax back into a Child's pose.

Practice patience and caution when working toward full tripod headstand and enjoy the journey on the way up. And, as with any inversion practice, be sure to take full advantage of your newfound flipped perspective.