An advanced freestanding inversion yoga pose, handstand has many benefits. It builds strength in your shoulders, arms and wrists, helps relieve stress, improves your circulation and ability to balance, and calms your mind. But if the thought of balancing upside-down on your hands gives you Handstand phobia, a gradual approach can help you overcome your anxiety. Mastering Handstand may take several months, and should be learned under the guidance of a certified yoga teacher who can correct technique flaws and help boost your confidence.
Things You'll Need
- Yoga mat
- Yoga block (optional)
Practice and perfect foundation yoga poses before tackling Handstand, recommends yoga teacher Amy Cooper in Yoga Journal. Learn and master poses such as Plank, Mountain, Downward-Facing Dog, Standing Forward Bend, One-Legged Downward-Facing Dog and Warrior III. These poses can help with body awareness and alignment, build strength and mental fortitude, improve your balance, and help you feel comfortable with the upside-down position of Handstand.
Assume a standing "L" position against a wall, beginning by facing the wall, one leg's length away, to work on fundamentals important to this pose. Lift your left leg until it is parallel to the floor and put your foot flat against the wall with your toes pointing up. With your right leg directly under your right hip, extend your arms above your head and bend your wrists so your palms face the ceiling. Keep your body aligned, take six slow breaths and then repeat with your right leg against the wall.
Practice an upside-down Half Handstand. Turn your back to the wall and move into Downward-Facing Dog, putting your hands where your heels were when you were in the standing "L" position. Come into an inverted "L" position by lifting one leg at a time and putting your feet flat on the wall, hip high. Align your body from your hips to your hands, spread your fingers for stability and keep your arms next to your ears.
Practice lifting one leg. Move into Half Handstand and while keeping your hips square. Slowly lift your right leg until your right side is in complete alignment from your foot to your hands. After six breaths, move back into Downward-Facing Dog and repeat with your left leg. Remember the feeling of the true vertical alignment.
Balance with only your toe touching the wall. Move your hands a few inches farther from the wall and move into Half Handstand with your right leg lifted. Push with the ball of your left foot until only your big toe touches the wall. Contract your core to help you gain your balance and once you're balanced, slowly lift your left leg. If you start to lose your balance, return your toe to the wall. Strive to bring your legs together. Have a partner stand by to help steady your body. After several attempts, return to Half Handstand, change the role of your legs and repeat.
Move away from the wall. Stand on a yoga mat, move into Downward-Facing Dog and then into Standing Forward Bend. Lean forward slightly, lift your heels off the mat and shift most of your weight onto your hands. While keeping your right leg as straight as possible, lift it as high as you can. Push through the ball of your left foot and hop up 6 to 8 inches and then land back on your left foot. Repeat and try to increase your height with each hop. Strive to catch your balance with your legs split and then work toward bringing your legs together to Handstand. Have a partner stand by to help.
Tips & Warnings
- If you struggle with getting height while learning to hop into Handstand, start with a yoga block under one foot.
- Blood pressure increases with inversion poses. So if you have high blood pressure, check with your doctor before performing inversions. If you're cleared to exercise and you're controlling your high blood pressure with medication, Roger Cole, certified Iyengar yoga teacher and research scientist, recommends starting with mild inversions, such as Downward-Facing Dog, and gradually working to full inversions.
- Yoga Journal: Handstand
- Yoga Journal: Standing on Your Own Two Hands
- Yoga Journal: 7 Steps to Defy Gravity and Master Handstand
- YouTube: Kim Snyder How to Yoga Handstand
- ABC of Yoga: Yoga Exercise - Handstand (Adho Mukha Vrksasana)
- Yoga Journal: Q&A: Is It Safe to Do Inversions with High Blood Pressure?
- Photo Credit Benis Arapovic/Hemera/Getty Images
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