A couple posts ago I wrote about how standing, in Tadasana, is just like standing on your hands, in Adho Mukha Vrksasana, and if you’re doing it correctly it is! So now it’s time to go a little deeper and go step by step through the actual asana, Handstand.
Question: why bother doing a handstand? Answer: because it’s fun, a challenge, and there are many health benefits like it
- Strengthens the shoulders, arms, and wrists
- Stretches the belly
- Improves sense of balance
- Calms the brain and helps relieve stress and mild depression
- Reverses the blood flow which invigorates the body
Step 1: Perform Down Dog first with your fingertips an inch or two away from the wall, hands shoulder-width. Your hands should be parallel to each other, spread your palms and press the bases of the index fingers firmly against the floor. To ready yourself for this inversion, firm your shoulder blades against your back torso and pull them toward your tailbone. Then rotate your upper arms outward, to keep the shoulder blades broad, and hug your outer arms inward.
Step 2: Now bend one knee and step the foot about 12 inches closer to the wall say it’s your left leg), but keep the other (right) leg active by extending through the heel. Look directly between your hands! Then take a few practice hops before you try to launch yourself upside down. You may only hop an inch off the ground with your left leg and that’s a great start. As you become more comfortable sweep your right leg toward the wall and hop your left foot off the floor, immediately pushing through the heel to straighten the left knee. Kepp your hips even. As both legs come off the ground, engage your deep core abdominal muscles to help lift your hips over your shoulders. Hop up and down like this several times, each time pushing off the floor a little higher, trying to make an L or 90 degree angle with your legs. Exhale deeply each time you hop.
Step 3: Hopping up and down like this may be all you can manage for now and can be very invigorating on it’s own. To improve your arm and core strength regularly practice strengthening poses, like Adho Mukha Svanasana (Down Dog) and Plank Pose. Eventually you’ll be able to kick all the way into the pose. At first your heels may crash into the wall, but again with more practice you’ll be able to swing your legs up lightly to the wall and balance. We tend to kick up with the same leg all the time: be sure to alternate your kicking leg, one time right, next time left.
Step 4: One you are upside down bring your attention to your low back. If it feels arched or your armpits feel tight, lengthen the low back area by drawing your front ribs into your torso, reaching your tailbone toward your heels, and by sliding your heels higher up the wall. Squeeze the outer legs together and roll the thighs in. Hang your head from a spot between your shoulder blades and gaze out into the center of the room.
Step 5: To start stay in the pose 10 to 15 seconds, breathing deeply. Gradually work your way up to 1 minute. When you come down, be sure not to sink onto the shoulders. Keep your shoulder blades lifted and broad, and take one foot down at a time, each time with an exhalation. Stand in Uttanasana (Standing Forward Fold) for 30 seconds to 1 minute to allow the blood to settle and then come to Child’s Pose.
In class if you want to work on handstand do not hesitate to move to the wall, use a strap around your upper arms to keep your hands shoulder distance, and finally ask your teacher to assist you! You will be happy you did once you attempt Adho Mukha Vrksasana, Handstand. It is not a pose many of us can achieve the 1st or even 50th time we attempt it, but yoga is a practice and a journey. Remember the best part about life is it’s a journey!!