Going from down-dog to a full headstand requires weeks of practice and advancing your yoga technique, but lifting your toes off the ground can be the hardest part. It seems like an insurmountable mountain of work that lays in front of you. Between warrior three and achieving arm-balance lift-off for more than a minute, you might need a few regular modifications to advance your abilities. Here are a few of my favorite ways to go from child’s pose to headstands.
halfway to liftoff
Halfway to liftoff is great! The tippy-toe touches that come with any attempt are superb, if you are close to an arm lift, or right off of plow, feel free to touch your tippy toes down one at a time. Or just very slowly lift onto one foot, then your tippy toes, where ever you can go is magnificent for you. Use your block, use your strap, whatever you need, a firefly pose that touches a toe to a block set up in front of you is amazing, and I am so proud that you can achieve that.
try a location change
This may sound strange, but going outside of your house, or trying it in a group can provide you with enough of a distraction that let you go of whatever flexibility you need. Sometimes going into a class and leading up to a particular move in an unusual flow is enough to gain flexibility and strength that you might have not had in your previous attempts. It can distract you and get out of your own brain space and give you new resources. If you can’t make it to the top of the mountain, try a different path.
I would also recommend going on an adventure to an attempt advancing your yoga technique. Taking a path in the forest, or finding a new place to work on your advanced postures will accomplish a similar idea of finding a class to practice with. It will create a new environment and allow you to move past whatever your brain is making up as a barrier.
improve strength and flexibility
If the only barrier between you and an advanced yoga move is your mind, I highly recommend location changes or tilting from halfway to full lift-off, but if you lack the strength or flexibility that could take you from child’s pose to a full Bird of paradise, try these mid-level transitional moves.
Improving your strength through yoga will also assist your balance and give you a much needed boost to fully elevate into most arm balances. We are all different, so of course there are different strengths each of us should work on, but for many of us, it’s core and arm strength that are holding us back.
Planks are amazing for your whole body, side planks, normal planks, or lift a leg or an arm. If you can’t hold a plank, or if you would like to maintain constant movement, try switching from side plank to a traditional one, and then to the other side. The constant movement can be very helpful for someone looking to build strength, but still continue movement with every breath. A straight arm plank will help with both your shoulders and your core. I highly recommend this simple move to really help you advance your yoga technique on more difficult postures.
Holding your poses for a few breathes longer than you need will help you build the strength where it might be currently missing. Taking that updog a little bit slower and holding it will build strength and give you the time to focus on form perfection. Slow down and add a breath to focus on your form, that extra time will add power to your poses as you spend more time on each moment or movement.
You’re so strong, but you still can’t get your shoulder behind your knee. Continue building up to advanced moves by increasing your flexibility. It’s not just touching your toes, it’s twists, it’s your back, your shoulders, and arms.
Adding a twist to more traditional moves are special way you can increase your flexibility while also building strength. It’s great for anyone who is tight in their chest, back, shoulders, or arms. If there is a twist option, try breathing into each side.
strap it up
Can’t touch your toes? Strap it up. Where your arms won’t reach, or your back, or just use a strap to give yourself leverage where it might otherwise be missing. Halfway to camel, crawl the wall behind you, or try stretching the same muscle in a different way. Small changes can make a world of difference when it comes to trying a new method, so have fun trying different poses (even if it’s for the same muscle) it can be insanely helpful.
Whether you are a newbie, or have been trying to touch your toes for months, taking your yoga practice to the next level can be challenging. Often it means improving on strength and flexibility, but sometimes, just a new mindset can take you even further. Give it a go, and see what works for you.