Headstand and Shoulderstand Yoga Inversion Sequence

Inversions are poses in which your head is lower than your heart. Inversions can improve your balance and core strength. This sequence of inversions starts with a headstand. Review the basics of how to do a headstand before beginning this sequence. Practice at a wall if you are not comfortable in the middle of the room. Another option is to just do the preparatory version of the pose in which you do not fully invert until you're ready to progress.



Young attractive woman in salamba sirsasana pose, white studio b
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Begin the series with a headstand.

  1. Start on your hands and knees with your wrists under your shoulders and your knees under your hips.
  2. Bring your forearms to the floor parallel to one another and shoulder-width apart. Interlace your fingers.
  3. With the fingers interlaced, open the palms to create a basket for the crown of the head to rest. Make sure the very top of the head is on the floor.
  4. Tuck your toes and lift your knees off the floor as you press firmly into your forearms. Lift your hips up and walk your feet towards your head until your hips are over your shoulders.
  5. Extend one leg straight up towards the ceiling as if it could reach behind you. This will create a counterbalance for the opposite leg to also lift off the floor.
  6. Press down into your forearms to avoid collapsing into the shoulders. This will also help to keep your neck and head from bearing all of the weight.
  7. Extend up through the balls of your feet and rotate your thigh bones inward slightly.
  8. Work up to holding for at least 10 breaths.

Plow Pose: Halasana

Young attractive woman in Halasana pose, white studio background
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After Headstand, come to lie on your back and bring yourself into Plow pose. Plow and Shoulderstand are good follow-ups to Headstand because they stretch the neck out, relieving any compression.​

  1. Lying on your back, tuck your shoulder blades under.
  2. Extend your legs to 90 degrees and pause. Lift your lower half off the floor by pressing your palms into the ground. Engage your core as leverage to swing your feet up and over your head until your toes touch the floor behind your head. Keep your legs straight.
  3. Interlace your fingers behind your back on the floor and straighten your arms, reaching them towards the end of the mat.
  4. Roll your shoulders under one at a time.
  5. It's hard to breathe in this position, but try to stay for five deep breaths. You will go into Shoulderstand from this position.

Shoulderstand: Salamba Sarvangasana

Supported Shoulderstand
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From Plow, bring yourself into Shoulderstand. To keep your neck safe, refrain from turning your head to either side while you are in this pose. Instead, keep your gaze straight up towards your toes. A blanket under your shoulders will help prevent flattening of the cervical spine.

  1. From Plow pose, bend your elbows and bring your hands onto your back with your fingertips facing upward. The hands should come to about the middle of your back. Your elbows should be shoulder-width apart.
  2. Lift your feet up off the floor toward the ceiling. You may need to lift them up one at a time.
  3. Lift up through the balls of your feet.
  4. Move your hips forward and your feet backward to straighten the body into a line.
  5. Stay in the pose for up to 10 breaths.
  6. To come out of the pose, lower your feet back over your head to return to Plow. Release your palms back onto the mat for support. You will go into Ear Pressure pose from this position.

Ear Pressure Pose: Karnapidasana

Ear Pressure Pose - Karnapidasana

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From Plow pose, drop your knees to either side of your head, pressing your knees close to the ears, as you come into Karnapidasana.

Take at least five breaths before releasing your arms and rolling out of the pose.


Fish Pose: Matsyasana

Fish Pose - Matsyasana
Ann Pizer

Slowly lower your hips back onto the ground. Keep the legs straight as you roll down onto your back. Arch your back, lifting your chest and chin. Bend at the elbows, placing the forearms on the ground to frame your torso for support. Tilt your head back until your crown is resting on the floor in Fish pose.


Fish Variation I

Fish Variation I
Ann Pizer

Engage your core to raise your legs up off the floor. Hold this position for several breaths.


Fish Variation II

Fish Variation II
Ann Pizer

Bring the arms up towards the ceiling with the palms pressed together. Again, back and neck are arched and legs lifted so that only the top of the head and hips are on the floor. Hold this ​position for several breaths before coming to lie flat on your back for a rest.

A Word From Verywell

Don't worry if you can't do all of these poses in their complete form. Simply meet your body where it is in each pose and work toward progressing in each shape. Aim to add this inversion sequence to your yoga practice once or twice a week. Follow the series with savasana (corpse pose).

By Ann Pizer, RYT
Ann Pizer is a writer and registered yoga instructor who teaches vinyasa/flow and prenatal yoga classes.