What I Learned from Learning How to Do a Headstand

Tomorrow, Metro Manila shifts into “General Community Quarantine” which is probably what the initial implementation of quarantine was planned to be: people would be allowed to go to work and to access essential goods and services, but with social distancing measures in force and public transportation somewhat hobbled. (Obviously that was a big mess when first implemented on March 15, which led to “Enhanced Community Quarantine” measures that were left in force longer than the lockdown done in Wuhan.)

What GCQ means for those of us who have been cooped up trying to exercise indoors is that swimming is now allowed, and with running and cycling allowed since the beginning of Modified Enhanced Community Quarantine, there’s some sort of normalcy to a triathlete’s training routines once again.

(A sidenote and a little rant: ECQ, MECQ, GCQ, MGCQ… such ugly acronyms. What’s wrong with calling them Quarantine levels 1 through 5??? Numbered quarantine levels are easier to understand regarding how strict they are.)

Anyway, while we were cooped up and I was doing more yoga, I decided to build into doing a full headstand. While I had learned about two years ago how to set it up, and the instructor had told me I could already try to straighten my legs up, I was too scared to go beyond wall-assisted ones.


I decided to learn to do a full headstand because I was bored trying to exercise indoors, and thought it would be fun to master a new skill. So if you were following me on Instagram over the past eight weeks, you would have caught some posts and stories detailing my progression with the headstand, until last week when I finally managed to get my legs up and hold them there.

There are many other better (certified!) instructors who can teach you how to safely prepare and get into a headstand, so I will not do any teaching here. But I really wanted to share the things I learned while I learned to do a headstand. I’ve distilled these down into three points.

Lessons Learned from Learning to Do a Headstand

You can watch the vlog below, or scroll a bit further for the text version.

Lesson #1: Aim for Progression

Try to get a little further than you did yesterday. That’s all. An obsession for perfection can lead to frustration and inaction because you feel like you just can’t get it right. But when you focus on being happy with small incremental improvements and leave things for another day if you’re not there today, before you know it you’ve built the strength and skill needed to go all the way.

Lesson #2: Preparation is Key

When you’re trying to do something challenging, it’s best you don’t do it recklessly. Preparation paves the path to success.

Much like every single physical exercise, you need to warm up and prepare for the exertion you’re about to put it through. I find that an energetic yoga session gets me into both the physical and mental state I need to attempt a headstand. I also use specific activation exercises and postures to prepare for headstand.

Lesson #3: Failure is Part of Learning

Try and try until you succeed. There’s an element of fear when you haven’t successfully done something, but through trial-and-error you build the courage and confidence to go for it.

With the headstand, you can’t just muscle your way into it by building muscular strength. There’s also the element of finding balance and trying to stay in a sweet spot so you don’t fall over. How do you find that sweet spot? Well, in my case I found it by feeling my way through falling past it. And then the next time I attempted a headstand, I stayed just behind that sweet spot and my legs eventually floated upwards to vertical.

While these lessons were ones I learned specifically because of learning how to do a headstand, you can draw generalizations and see that they can also be applied with anything you set out to learn and master. I definitely think it’s wonderful to learn good life principles through physical activity, and why it’s good to challenge oneself from time to time with new goals.

I expect more of my exercise time to be spent swimming, cycling (indoors, still!), and running, but learning how to do a headstand was a good little project to attempt through this period that the world felt topsy-turvy.


About Noelle De Guzman

Noelle De Guzman is a freelance writer and recreational athlete with over 12 years of experience in fitness and endurance sport. She believes sport and an active healthy lifestyle changes lives.

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