By Alexa Tucker
It’s no secret that actress Halle Berry is into working out. Through her #FitnessFriday Instagram posts, she’s been sharing the exercises and habits that keep her feeling strong and healthy—including yoga. She recently showed off an impressive headstand (topless, no less), and it just might encourage you to get upside down, too.
“Today I’m proud to share my new #yoga pose,” she wrote in her caption. “Thanks to all of you, I got super inspired and challenged myself to a headstand!” Check it out:
Mastering a headstand is an accomplishment worth celebrating—it’s a pretty challenging pose.
Physically, headstands require both balance and strength.
“Holding a headstand requires full-body strength,” Heather Peterson, yoga instructor and Chief Yoga Officer at CorePower Yoga, tells SELF. “Specifically, strength from your core, your triceps and lats, and the serratus anterior, which are the fingerlike muscles below your shoulder blades.” Your shoulders also have to be both strong and open, says Rebecca Weible, yoga instructor and owner and founder of Yo Yoga! in NYC.
Headstands also require a decent amount of mental strength.
“The number one thing I see people are challenged with in inversions is fear of being upside down,” says Weible. “You’re asking your body to do something that you’re always asking it not to do—99 percent of the time we’re trying to stay upright and on our feet.”
“While there is a sense of freedom when you’re completely inverted, it also creates a fear of being out of control or falling, which can lead to hesitation,” adds Peterson. Headstands are known as an inversion pose, which just means your head is below your heart. (Technically, Downward Dog is also an inversion.) Yogis often say that these inversions are great for flipping your perspective—literally.
“When you’re upside down, you’re changing your relationship with gravity and how you look at things,” says Weible. “There’s something about being upside down and changing your perspective that’s really uplifting.” Not to mention, headstands do make for a pretty cool photo opp.
If you’re feeling inspired to try one yourself, there are a few things that can help you.
“I continue to challenge each of you to try new poses as well and share them with me by tagging #FitnessFridayHB,” Berry wrote in her caption. If a headstand is on your list of poses to master one day, there are a few steps you can take to work up to it.
First, start by facing a wall to assist you. When you’re actually in the headstand, your back will be facing the wall. “People are generally worried about falling backward out of a pose, which is why we start people at the wall, because it takes some of that fear factor out,” says Weible. You can also have someone spot you—probably a good idea if you’re just starting out.
Once you’ve got your space, here’s how to try it for yourself with these cues from Peterson.
- Start on all fours. Plant your elbows and forearms on the ground—to measure how far apart they should be, take your hands and grab the outsides of your arms (just above your elbows). Then, move your hands forward and interlace your fingers (except for your pinkies).
- Bring the crown of your head (the flat part of your head) down to the mat and nestle the back of your head into your hands.
- Straighten your legs into a Downward Facing Dog position.
- Press your elbows into the ground to reduce the pressure into your head and neck.
OK, pause right here. This is a great place to stop and get comfortable if you’re not ready to do a full headstand. This is similar to Dolphin ose, which helps prep your shoulders and the rest of your upper body for the full inversion. “The more comfortable you can get in Dolphin pose, the more stable you’ll feel,” says Weible.
When you’re comfortable in Dolphin and feel ready to move on, here are the next steps:
- Tuck your knees into your chest and move your pelvis so it’s directly over your shoulders.
- Press your feet up to the sky to straighten out your legs, keeping them together.
- Quick form check: Press your forearms into the ground as you take your shoulders away from your ears. Press the back of your head into your hands and draw your ribs in.
- Stay here for three to five breaths as you build up stamina in the pose.
- To get out of the pose, slowly bring your knees back toward your chest to reverse the movement so you can safely get out of it.
The biggest key to nailing a headstand? “Practice, practice, practice!” says Peterson. After all, practice may not make perfect right away, but it does make progress.