A woman makes a headstand in the Lustgarten park on Museum Island in central Berlin.
A woman makes a headstand in the Lustgarten park on Museum Island in central Berlin. - 

We have almost made it through the first week of the new year, which means most resolutions have already kicked into gear. David Cooper from New York was among the listeners who shared their resolutions with us. Cooper said that his New Year’s resolution is “learn how to stand on my head via yoga.” We decided to figure out what that resolution might cost him.

There are plenty of how-tos for doing headstands online — both written and in video form — but experts recommend attempting the pose under professional guidance. Some estimate that it would take about 8 to 10 classes and extra practice to learn how to do a proper headstand.

“Headstand is definitely not for everyone and there are risks that mean that some people should never do the pose,” explained Timothy McCall, a physician and yoga therapist. “One of the problems with the pose is that it is actually fairly easy to get up there, meaning some people who have no business doing it, do it. The problem with doing it from a YouTube video is that you lose the crucial element of having someone make sure you’re ready for the pose and also make sure you’re doing it in a way that’s safe.”

McCall suggested finding an experienced teacher to guide you. “Depending on your budget this could be in a class setting or a private lesson. Classes often cost around 15 bucks,” he said.

People should not attempt to do headstands unless their bodies are fully prepared to do it safely, according to Glenn Black, who has been practicing and teaching yoga for more than 40 years.

“The cervical vertebra are the smallest in the spine [and] the muscles of the neck were designed to hold the head upright,” he pointed out. “When the body is inverted, the spine and muscles are required to support all of the body weight. So unless the practitioner knows how to extend the spine through coordinated effort of the muscles, the resultant compression will damage the nervous system.”

According to Black, neither videos or class setting are a good way to learn how to do headstands. “Find someone experienced in teaching headstand and have them give one-on-one instruction,” he said. “Most people do not have a clue if they are in good alignment or not. Unfortunately, most teachers do not either.”

As for the cost, Black said that “depends on how arrogant the teacher is.” Cost of one-on-one yoga classes range from $60 to $125 based on the location and the experience of the teacher.

An Indian Hindu Sadhu (holy man) poses his adopted child in a yoga headstand on the banks of the Sangam in Allahabad.
An Indian Hindu Sadhu (holy man) poses his adopted child in a yoga headstand on the banks of the Sangam in Allahabad. - 

Roger Cole, who teaches yoga in Del Mar, California, agreed that proper alignment is key when learning to do a headstand.

“It's important to learn to do headstand with precise alignment for two reasons: First, it protects your neck. Second, it allows you to naturally stay in the pose for a long time without strain. That's how you get most of the benefits,” explained Cole.

He added that while learning to do a headstand is a wonderful resolution, it certainly is not for everyoneespecially people “who have a neck injury, osteoporosis, eye disease (such as glaucoma) or elevated risk of stroke.” Cole said he does headstands for meditation. He also does not recommend learning headstands without professional guidance. With proper guidance and enough practice, one could learn to do headstands in a matter of weeks.

“Headstand is not terribly expensive to learn,” said Cole. “You could learn the basic technique in, say, eight yoga classes costing $15 to $20 each, provided you practice on your own most days in between. That's not a lot to pay for a lifetime of being healthier and feeling better.”

That would bring a total cost of somewhere between $120 to $160 if you chose group classes instead of one-on-one instruction. However, if you have a gym membership, you might be able to take free yoga classes at your gym. In that case, the cost of learning to do a headstand would be part of your gym membership.

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Follow Jana Kasperkevic at @kasperka