How to Do a Headstand without a Wall

How to Do a Headstand without a Wall -- there are lots of ways to get into a headstand, but I find this one easiest as a beginner!First and foremost: my feet. LOL. I mean, I have larger feet, but this camera angle is just not doing me any sort of favors. While making this pictorial I was like ohmygod are my feet as long as my shins?? They aren’t. I promise. Anyway…

You guys may remember that my New Year’s resolution was to regularly practice yoga, so I thought a fun way to check in with my progress on that would be to share how I finally nailed a headstand without a wall. Some weeks are better than others, but so far 2015 has marked a huge turn in my yoga practice (namely, I’m actually practicing haha).

There’s a hot yoga studio (H.Y.P.) on ClassPass that has a class right after I’m done teaching at Btone Wellesley on Tuesdays, so at the very least, I practice yoga once a week. In addition, I’ve done some new client specials at studios by my apartment, so some weeks I’ll practice up to four times. Those weeks are awesome because I really notice a difference in how deep I can get into the poses and the increased ease with which my body is moving. I think the key to consistency will be incorporating some shorter at-home yoga sessions into my week. Let the YouTube searching begin! :)

I’m a morning person and usually love early workouts, but I’ve found that I actually prefer practicing yoga at night. I’m not as stiff and that calm, relaxed post-yoga feeling makes for a great night’s sleep. Anyone else feel that way?

How I Get into Headstands without Using a Wall

How to Do a Headstand without a Wall -- there are lots of ways to get into a headstand, but I find this one easiest as a beginner!Inversions scare the living sh*t out of me. It’s not so much holding them—I think I have the upper body and core strength to do that—it’s getting into them. Being tall is awesome and all, but when it comes to flinging your limbs into the air and sticking an upside-down balance, it’s a disadvantage. Or maybe I’m just a chicken. Either way, there is a reason why gymnasts are short!

There are lots of ways to get into a headstand, but I find the key for me is to keep my limbs as close to my center of gravity as possible. Rather than kicking up into the pose or lifting straight legs into the air, I start with bent knees close to my torso and extend straight up from there. How to Do a Headstand without a Wall -- there are lots of ways to get into a headstand, but I find this one easiest as a beginner!

I’m not a trained yoga instructor (or even all that good at yoga), but here are some tips to go along with the pictures based on my personal practice and the advice certified teachers have given me in class:

  • Place a blanket/towel underneath your head. The added padding makes it a lot more comfortable.
  • Hands should be shoulder-width apart. The tendency is to plant the hands out wide, but that wider base actually isn’t as supportive as having the hands aligned with your shoulders. As a matter of fact, in looking at the pictures in this post, I think I could have had my hands in a little closer to each other.
  • Once your knees are balanced on your elbows, squeeze the elbows in towards each other. One of the yoga teachers at Back Bay yoga gave me this tip—it’s a small adjustment, but you’ll feel a huge difference in stabilization if you actively squeeze the elbows in as you lift the knees off your arms and into the air.
  • To hit a straight line with your body, you’ll need to pull the legs back a few degrees passed your perceived midline. If you’re a beginner like me, the scariest part of the inversion is the last few inches of pulling your legs up and back to form a vertical line with your body. Taking these pictures actually helped me a lot because I could look back on my form. When I thought I was in a straight line, my legs where actually slightly in front of my body. I had to go to a point that felt like I would topple over backwards to achieve that straight alignment—engaging my back (rather than just my abs) to get there. Your entire core needs to work to stabilize, not just your front body.

Ok, next up: handstands. Eeek.

How to Do a Headstand without a Wall -- there are lots of ways to get into a headstand, but I find this one easiest as a beginner!

WEARING: tank: Lululemon (old) // leggings: c/o Eddie Bauer // sports bra: c/o PUMA (old)

And a big thanks to Nomadix for the printed towel—isn’t it gorgeous?! One of my college BFFs introduced me to guys behind the brand, and I instantly fell in love with the bright prints and their message: Own less. Do more. I use my towel for yoga (usually on top of my mat during hot yoga), but it can also be used at the beach, picnics, hiking, etc. It’s made from 100% recycled material and is lightweight so it’s easy to pack and fit in a bag. Pictured is their Zig Zag Towel.

Yogis/yoga teachers—I would love for you to share your headstand tips in the comments section! signature

April Fitness Challenge & DietBet

pumps-iron-april-challenge-dietbetWhen I polled you guys last month about doing another DietBet or a separate sort of challenge on the blog, the responses were pretty evenly mixed—lots of requests for another DB, but also enthusiasm for a challenge not related to weight loss. So let’s do both!

For this month-long challenge, you pick the goal. What’s something you’ve been wanting to achieve? What change have you been needing to make? It can be anything related to health and fitness. If losing 4% of your bodyweight is on your list of goals, awesome—sign up for the Pumps & Iron DietBet. If weight loss isn’t a goal, challenge yourself to something else: Build up the strength to do 10 consecutive push ups without modifying to your knees; train for a 5K; drink half your bodyweight in ounces of water a day for a month; cut out sugar from your diet for 30 days to see how it affects your body; increase your flexibility so that you’re able to touch your toes. Tailor the challenge to your own personal goals.

I’ve put together a printable goal-setting chart to help you map out your challenge, break it into smaller weekly goals, and plan your month. It sounds dorky, but the process of writing down your goals, breaking them into steps, identifying obstacles you’ll face, and accordingly planning for getting through them is so paramount in succeeding. Start brainstorming your goal for next month and I’ll share the printout on the blog next week before the DietBet starts!

The Deets

If you’re unfamiliar with DietBet, it essentially allows you to win money for losing weight. You buy into it for $35, and then everyone who successfully loses 4% of their bodyweight in four weeks gets to split the pot. Usually winners end up doubling their money. It’s fun because you have this ongoing message board with everyone involved in the bet that allows you to support each other, get motivation when you’re lacking, share your victories, and seek advice when you falter. I always end up getting really emotional and typically cry at least twice throughout the month from reading the inspirational support being offered to the mini DietBet community (I know I know, I need to get a grip). Full rules can be found here.

The DietBet and blog challenge will start Monday April 6. I figured it’d be easiest for some people to wait until after Easter/Passover. And April seems like the perfect month because the weather is getting warmer, and that summer-is-coming buzz is absolutely infectious.

Throughout the month, I’ll be hosting giveaways at the end of each week for some added motivation. Everyone who succeeds in reaching their weekly benchmark can enter to win a prize package of awesome health and fitness goodies (that goes for DietBetters and those just taking on the blog challenge).

I’m in the process of finalizing prizes and content, so let me know if there are posts you’d find helpful during the challenge month or prizes that would help motivate you to stay on track. All suggestions welcome! And don’t worry–if you think the whole thing sounds stupid, there will still be all the regular workout/fitness posts I do throughout the challenge. :)

Hope you all (or at least some of you) are as excited as I am! I know challenges can be a little dorky, but c’mon—they’re fun! And a great way to get on track toward whatever goal you want to achieve. It’s not 100% final, but my goal will probably be to stick a handstand without using a wall. I think I have the core and upper body strength to do it—it’s just getting over my fear of falling over and practicing the balance. Maybe a month isn’t long enough and I’m being overly ambitious—yogis, feel free to pitch in your two cents!

If you’re interested in the DietBet, you can sign up HERE. You have until early April to get involved and it’s way more fun with friends, so start recruiting family members, friends and coworkers!  cta-april-dietbetsignature

3-Circuit Kettlebell Workout

Full-Body Kettlebell Workout (made up of three mini circuits: the first focusing on core, then lower body, then upper body)I mentioned in a previous post that I was excited about a Dragon Door kettlebell certification coming to Boston at the end of this month. Welp, missed the sign-up deadline. Womp. But it’s actually a blessing in disguise because a reader introduced me to StrongFirst (thank you, Lindsey!) and I was pretty blown away at how amazing (and totally intimidating) it sounded. StrongFirst has an intense, 3-day certification program that will be in Boston in August, but it’s expensive ($1,600) and after reading the testing requirements, I’m actually not even strong enough to pass! I read the weight of the bells that would need to be used for each of the tested exercises and just went damn.

My first thought was, ok better get training. But before I start increasing my weights, I really want to have the form perfected. StrongFirst offers courses (different from certifications) that are one day and go over the ins and outs of kettlebells and proper form and alignment. They’re $299 and that cost can go towards a certification course should I chose to do that in the future. It sounds perfect for where I am right now, and it’s coming to Boston late April—whoop! I won’t be credentialed afterwards, but will be 100x more knowledgeable. Really excited to share all I learn with you guys!

And speaking of kettlebells, here’s a full-body workout I did the other day in my apartment made up of three mini circuits (one focusing on core, one on upper body, one on lower body).

3-Circuit Kettlebell Workout

Equipment I Used:

  • 25-lb kettlebell
  • 20-lb kettlebell
  • Exercise mat

This workout consists of three circuits: the first focusing on core, the second on lower body, and the third on upper body. There are kettlebell swings in each one for a little cardio boost (plus kb swings might just be the most perfect exercise…ever). Go through each circuit three times. Complete one circuit before moving onto the next. Complete each circuit as quickly as possible (without sacrificing form!) and rest for up to 1 min in between circuits.

I indicated the weight I used in the exercise descriptions but adjust these to match your fitness level. With kettlebell exercises, it’s always best to start with a lower weight until you’re comfortable with the form.

I would budget 30 minutes for this workout. If you’re more advanced, you’ll be able to finish in less time; beginners will need a little longer. Full-Body Kettlebell Workout (made up of three mini circuits: the first focusing on core, then lower body, then upper body)

Circuit 1 (Core) | Go through 3 times

1 min Kettlebell Swings | Start with kettlebell on the floor between your legs and lift it up to starting position with both hands, flat back, using your legs to lift. With kettlebell hanging between your legs, use your arms as a pendulum, and swing the bell to chest-to-eye level by thrusting with your hips while keeping your core tight as you stand up straight. Swing back down and repeat. Your knees should remain slightly bent, but the main source of movement is hinging at the hips—not so much squatting. I used a 25-lb bell (but need to go up!).

50 Russian Twists | Start seated, holding the kettlebell in both hands at your chest, feet lifted off the ground with your knees bent. Lean back slightly, core engaged, balancing on your tailbone. Twist to one side, bringing the kettlebell to the outer side of that hip; then repeat in the other direction. Really twist at the waist—you want your chest to be totally facing whatever side you’re bringing the bell. I used a 20-lb bell.

25 Standing Side Bends (each side) | Stand with feet hip distance apart and a kettlebell in one hand. Lean over to the side with your torso as you lower the kettlebell towards the ground (try to get it at least to knee height, if not a little lower). Engaging the obliques, bring your torso back upright to starting position once you’ve gone as low as possible. I used a 25-lb bell.

Circuit 2 (Lower Body) | Go through 3 times

1 min Kettlebell Swings

25 Goblet Squats | Stand with your feet about shoulder-width apart with your toes angled slightly outward. Hold a kettlebell in both hands, cradling it at the base of the handle at your chest. Keeping your torso as upright as possible (you don’t want to hunch forward with the weight of the bell), squat down, trying to get your bum lower than your knees. As you bend the knees, they should track in line with the angle of the toes and not jut forward of them. Once you reach the bottom of your squat, weight in your heels, power up to standing, thrusting the hips forward slightly at the top as you squeeze those glutes. I used a 25-lb bell.

25 Figure 8 Side Lunges (each side) | Begin standing with kettlebell in your right hand. Lunge out to the side onto your left leg, sitting your butt back to prevent the knee jutting forward of the toes. As you lunge out, gently swing the kettlebell around that left leg in a partial figure 8 movement, passing it off to your right hand as you continue to circle it around that left leg. Pass it back off to the right hand as you push off the left leg and return back to the starting standing position. I used a 25-lb bell.

Circuit 3 (Upper Body) | Go through 3 times

1 min kettlebell swings

15 Clean ‘n Press (each side) | Start standing tall with feet shoulder-width apart, holding the kettlebell in one hand, arm straight, bell hanging in front of your body. Bend knees into a half squat, and bring the kettlebell from a straight-arm hanging position to being closely held by the center of your chest with arm bent, fingers facing up. It’s a smooth movement, pulling the bell straight up and flipping your grip around the handle from an overhand grip to underhand (it will be cradled in the crook of your thumb and index finger at the end). Use your legs to help you achieve the clean: push up from your feet, straightening your legs for added power as you pull the bell up, and landing softly back into that half-squat as you catch the bell in its new hand position. From there, straighten legs as you stand up and extend your hand and the bell skyward. Reverse the moves to bring yourself back to starting position. Try to keep the kettlebell towards the center of your body throughout this move. When done correctly, this isn’t just an upper-body workout, but great for your core.

15 Mini Get-Ups (each side) | This is a partial Turkish get-up (very partial). Start laying down with the kettlebell in your right hand, right arm extended straight up towards the ceiling. You want to “pack” your shoulder blade down and back into the floor. Your right knee should be bent with right foot planted on the floor. Left leg is outstretched and left arm is laying beside you on the floor out at an angle. This is your starting position.

From here, engage your core and drive through the right heel as you punch the kettlebell straight up, coming up to a propped position on your left forearm. So you crunch the abdominals and, leading with your chest, rotate the shoulders so that the right arm is still perpendicular to the ground and your left forearm/elbow is supporting the weight of your upper body.

The last step is to squeeze the glutes and left oblique to lift the hips up into a sort of side plank. Don’t change the position of your feet when you do this. Reverse the motion, lowering the hips back to the ground and lowering your shoulders back down to the floor to your starting position. I used a 20-lb bell. full-body-kettlebell-workout-20

WEARING: t-shirt: c/o Reebok (old) // leggings: c/o Eddie Bauer