Handstand is a bit of a leap of faith. It’s a fantastic metaphor for our fear and vulnerability off our mat and a way to stare it down and move through it incrementally. It’s best to use a wall until your balance is solid. Not a wall full of electrical outlets, artwork and windows… a clean, safe space with plenty of room for you to land safely.
You can work elements of handstand in your downward dog. Really focus on keeping the forearms strengthening towards one another and lifting away from the ground. The inner upper arms roll towards the front of your mat, and your shoulder blades are placed firmly upon your back for a solid foundation. “L pose” is a great way to modify, and is part of our little sequence below. Stay playful, a bit silly and to be willing to turn things upside down from time to time. Inversions and arm balances can help to stave off depression and burnout in our super-serious-grownup lives. They teach us to turn our fright into flight.
Shift into a plank on your forearms. Imagine your core like an apple core down the midline of your body. Note that this is merely your handstand parallel to the floor. Enjoy the powerful feeling of this pose like wind in your inversion-bound sails.
From down dog, shift into plank. Bring your right knee to the outside of your right arm and see if you can get the two to touch. Feel your deep core stabilizing muscles strengthen. You may want to keep your opposite knee down like a kickstand until you become stronger. The shift forward can feel a bit spooky when you’re in the full flight of handstand so it’s nice to test drive it here — be sure to do both sides.
Take a down dog with your heels up the wall. Begin to walk your feet up the wall. Stop when they are hip height creating an “L” shape. This is a great way to add training wheels to your handstand. Be patient. Allow yourself time to get familiar with upside down becoming right side up.
1) Start in a short down dog (adho mukha svanasana) with your hands about six inches away from the wall you are facing.
2) Shift your body weight forward, shoulders over the wrists, gazing right where the wall meets the floor to better orient yourself before take off.
3) With a bend to the knee, step one foot closer to the wall (this will be your launching leg). Activate your back leg, extending energy through the heel (this will be your lifting leg).
4) Begin with light hops pushing off your bottom foot, asking your back leg to leave the ground. Think finesse, float and fun. This may be enough to experiment with for a while. No need to rush the process. Eventually both legs come to the wall and heels extend to the sky for the full pose.
Handstand improves our sense of balance and proprioception. It teaches us to stay calm and focused in challenging situations and strengthens our shoulders, arms and wrists.
Handstands are not for those with high blood pressure, eye pressure disorders or headaches. Those with wrist, back or shoulder injuries, as well as women who are menstruating may want to skip this pose.
Photos by Ashley Streff
I’m an LA based yoga teacher but you can take class with me from anywhere here at My Yoga Gaiam. My writing and instruction are designed more for the “everyperson” than they are for those select few who can effortlessly tie their bodies into a bow and appear always to have their shit together. I believe there is no good reason to drink bad coffee. I believe we should be brave enough to try… especially if we’re pretty sure we’re going to suck. And I believe our yoga mats are magic carpets to look into our lives and to see the world. | www.andreamarcum.com