Headstand and Forearm Stand

Master This Imperative Shoulder Action

scapula elevation


Getting straight to the point, the imperative shoulder action in Headstand and Forearm Stand is elevation of the scapulae. This is the best way to fully participate in developing your potential in these postures. It may seem like a simple action, but it’s important to understand the broader scope of what’s involved. More than just lifting your shoulders up towards your ears, it’s the activation of muscles like the upper trapezius, serratus anterior, and the triceps, along with freedom in the neck, that help support this action. In today’s video, Matt outlines a number of drills that will assist you in finding the appropriate amount of activation and strength to achieve balance, stability, and freedom in Headstand and Forearm Stand.

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    This first drill can be approached in two different ways:

    1.  The first approach to this Headstand drill starts in a shorter Downward-Facing Dog in which your body is still in a diagonal position. You then proceed to play with movement between moving your head gently down towards the ground, which requires a softening in the shoulders, and pushing the floor away with your forearms, creating more elevation of the scapulae and pushing your body back. Matt reminds you not to move back to a point where you feel pain in your shoulders as a result of greater compression in the joint. 
    2.  In the second approach, you’ll walk your feet in to become more vertical (closer to Headstand or Forearm Stand position). It’s important to note the slow lowering of your head towards the ground in order to build greater strength in the elevators of the scapulae.




    It may be simpler to understand why elevation of the scapulae is important in Forearm Stand: The goal there is to take your head completely off of the ground. Why is elevation of the scapulae also imperative in Headstand? Well, implementing this action will reduce pressure on your cervical spine, that is, in the neck.  

    If you are going forward with this exploration, then you will feel some weight in your head in the starting position (feet down). To reduce this weight, Matt advises you to take your gaze towards your belly button to get longer in the back of your neck and/or to take the opportunity to strengthen your serratus muscles, along with the trapezius, by pushing the floor away to the degree that allows you to lift your head further away from the ground. This movement may be slight or moving more towards Forearm Stand.

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    Once you’ve explored some of the added layers in Headstand from the video, you can move on to explore your potential in Forearm Stand. This of course requires increased elevation of the scapulae in order to lift your head off the ground.

    This time, start with your head completely off the ground. Proceed by lifting one leg up at a time. If you’re close to a wall, like Matt is in the video, you’ll see how he demonstrates a controlled hop.

    Now, if you’re looking for a bit more, you’ll see Matt’s demonstration utilizing a chair in the video. This can be more intense, but what Matt explains is that it’s helpful to remove the balance element from the drill because you can work on strengthening and deepening the connection to the awareness of the range required in the scapulae in order to lift.

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    Keep in mind, the best choice to avoid injury or the aggravation of any known discomfort in your neck is to stay away from Headstand completely. However, what’s offered in the video tutorial, assuming it’s safe for you to explore, are ways to intelligently approach the practice of Headstand and Forearm Stand with a deeper understanding of how to prepare your body. The drills teach you how to build strength and mobility concurrently. You’ll learn how to strengthen muscles like the trapezius, serratus anterior, and stabilizers of the neck, but the basis for this strengthening comes from the important action of elevating your scapulae. This action is the catalyst for unlocking your potential in these inversions.

    Register today for The Shoulder Reset, a 2-hour livestream workshop on January 28th, where Matt will dive into technique, anatomy, and the biomechanics of the shoulder joint.

    See you on the mat!

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    Article by Trish Curling

    Videos Extracted From: Shoulder Mobility Immersion


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