The freestanding headstand is generally a safe exercise, nevertheless, take care not to injure yourself if you fall:
- Practice on a surface, that is not too hard (so falling does not hurt too much), but also not too soft (it gives proper support), like grass, tatami, a mat, etc.
- Make sure there are no objects nearby, that you can accidentally bump into.
- If you fall, tuck your chin, and roll out on your back, this will protect your neck and spine. Another way is to arrive in a bridge position, which is also ok, but the rolling version is safer.
If you want to learn the freestanding balance, you need to be confident, that you can fall, and nothing bad will happen.
Obviously, anything you do is at your own risk.
Balancing is an active process, meaning, that you need to train the feedback mechanism between your feeling of balance, and the muscles in our arms, shoulders, core, and legs, so that you can compensate appropriately, when you start falling. You can not really expect these reflexes to fully develop just by practicing at the wall.
To appreciate this, study how this works during standing: close the feet, try standing still, and bring your attention to the balance - you will soon notice, that the feet, toes, legs, and even the upper body are periodically making very small adjustments. You learnt this during childhood and since then it became automatic - the same will happen to your headstand, if you practice.
Using the wall for support is only recommended, until you become reasonably comfortable with the upside down position, that is, you can support yourself for at least 30 seconds without struggling. After that, it is time to let go of the wall.
To progressively start working on balance, the best way is to ask a partner to help:
- Ask your partner to hold your legs while you are upside-down. If you are reasonably stable, ask them, to gradually release your legs, and only provide a little support, when you start falling.
- The next step is, to ask the partner, to put their closed fist between your knees. Then, you can keep your balance by squeezing your knees together.
- Always take care not to accidentally kick your partner, as in the beginning you might make excessive movements with the legs to keep balance.
The most useful solo exercise for the freestanding headstand is the tuck headstand hold. The tuck headstand means, that your legs are off the ground, completely bent, and your knees are close to your chest:
- Place your head into the triangle formed by your arms, and walk gradually closer until your hips are exactly above your head. Bend your legs, pull the knees towards the chest. At this point, you should feel, that your toes want to lift off. If they do, bend the legs completely by pulling the toes close to your butt.
- Do not kick or jump, as this will likely result in over- or undershooting.
- Do not even try to lift the legs high yet. Find strength and balance in the position, keep your thighs close to the body, and the spine slightly bent.
- If the toes don't lift off effortlessly, it usually means, that your hips are still not far enough back.
- If you can't lift off both toes simultaneously yet, then lift one leg, then swap.
Work on the tuck headstand hold, until you can hold it until at least a few seconds. Then, you can try to slowly lift your legs higher to the full headstand. The key technical points here are:
- Actively push down on your hands and arms, and depress the shoulders, that is: push your arms down, and your shoulders in the opposite direction, resisting the tendency to collapse in the shoulders. This helps keeping the pressure off the neck, and provides a stable base for balancing.
- Do not lose control of your pelvis. Often, people lose tone in their abdomen, and as a result, the pelvis tilts backward. This will make the headstand more unstable. Keep your pelvis neutral, keep control in your abdomen, and lift/stretch the legs as slowly as possible, with control.