There are few things I do well, but human pyramids are one of them. This post will show you how to practice this basic life skill safely and awesomely.


First, a brief history. Which came first? The human, or the human pyramid? Nobody really knows.

As long as humans have existed, we’ve been been stacking. Hindus celebrate the birth of Krishna by making human towers: Dahi Handi involves stacking people to reach, and break, a high-hanging pot of yoghurt. It’s super awesome and dangerous.

The Catalonian tradition of building human castles (castells) was first recorded in 1712, and in 2010, UNESCO declared castells to be one of “Masterpieces of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity,” which is what I keep trying to tell people when we talk human pyramids.

But before you try to mount 150 of your besties, beware! In Japan, where human pyramids are part of the school curriculum (kumitaisou), 6,200 pyramid-related-injuries were recorded in 2012. Remember, you’re not a professional; you’re doing this for fun. It’s okay to look less like these miserable, if on-point, 1924 Czech Sokol practitioners…


And more like these somewhat sloppier, but infinitely more fun, drunk people:


Let’s get to it! Here’s how to make a basic, 3-row human pyramid. 

You’ll need:

  • humans (3+).

1. Get the bottom row happening. Even though I’m a lady (ha!), I have no problem being on the bottom. In fact, that’s where I most often find myself, because the easiest way to instigate is to get on the ground yourself. A strange thing happens. As ridiculous as you are kneeling and beseeching, people around you will feel even more ridiculous and uncomfortable, and will join you to alleviate their own awkwardness. It’s a phenomenon I don’t quite understand, but am happy to exploit. And don’t fear crushing. The weight will be evenly and comfortably distributed, because physics. That said, try to get as many burly men-folk on the bottom, if only to reinforce their sense of masculinity, which our modern lifestyle undermines at every turn.

Get on your hands and knees, and line up your shoulders with your neighbours’. Straighten and strengthen your back– you’re a human pyramid, not a cat in heat, dammit. Knees are hip-width apart, hips are directly above your knees. Your fingers should be spread wide, arms straight, and shoulder-width apart, and directly below your shoulders. If your limbs are too wide, or too narrow,  or bent, you can’t stack your bones in a way that makes weight-bearing bearable. Instead, you’ll have to rely on the power of your muscles, and as a weakling, let me just say, f*ck that.

2. Second row. Once you have the bottom row, you’re usually golden. Folks aren’t just going to let a bunch of people huddle together on their hands and knees, that’s even more awkward than one person on the ground. Plus, humans, like goats, find climbing stuff irresistible! Instinct will kick in.

The second row should approach from behind and climb up one person at a time, always checking in with their friends on the bottom to make sure they’re good. Place left hand on one bottom’s right shoulder, and right hand on other bottom’s left shoulder. Try to line up your arm-bones with their arm-bones so there’s a straight line of energy going into the ground. Now come up, one knee at a time, making sure to place your knee on either side of your friend’s spine, not directly on it. Place your knee on their hip/lower back area, never in the middle of their back. Boom-shaka-laka. You’re golden.

3. Third row. Who goes on top? Often, it’s the frailest looking person, but it can be anyone! Always put anyone celebrating a birthday on top, even if their girth is intimidating. Because even though the human pyramid, despite being physically hierarchical, is not socially hierarchical, it’s still pretty cool to be on top — a unique thrill. I also like to put people on top as a part of a formal thank you or recognition, or if they’re having a bad day.

The top shelf should gently step up with their feet onto the haunches of the bottom row, there should be a spot between the second rowers’ knees. Top row then climbs up onto their knees atop the second row, using same alignment considerations described above. Now inform the lower rows when you’ve been successful, so we can all cheer. TA-DA!

I’m over my word limit, so the post about safely dismounting will have to wait for the next assignment. Hope you’re all okay up there!

Pyramid Collage


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