10 Ways to Practice Handstand

10 Ways to Practice Handstand

I always encourage practitioners to focus on cultivating internal qualities like IMG_0116 copykindness, love and compassion, rather than attempt to contort their bodies into pretzel like positions or go for poses only elite gymnasts can do.

Nevertheless, the physical discipline, mental focus and non-attachment involved in working up to a challenging pose can be very rewarding.

For many yogis, handstand remains an elusive pose that they wouldn’t dare to try in class. Fortunately, there’s many ways to practice and work your way up.

Here’s 10 ways to practice handstand:

1. Headstand

20160519_165639~2If you’ve never been upside-down before, headstand is a great way to start out.

In headstand, the elbows, forearms and head create a triangle on the ground that makes a stable base of support.

If you’re just beginning, only stay in the pose for a few seconds, since it takes your cervical spine some time to adjust to the pressure of holding your entire body.

Work your strength up slowly and gradually, until being upside-down feels just as comfortable as being right-side up.

 

2. Forearm Stand

20160519_165651~2If you’re ready to progress from headstand, forearm stand offers another accessible way to practice being upside-down, this time requiring a more strength in the shoulders and more overall balance.

Predatory poses for forearm stand include dolphin pose and forearm plank.

Once you feel strong enough, try forearm stand with a wall behind you and feel free to use a block between your hands for additional support.

3. Hollow Body Core Work (on your back)

20160519_165629~2Strong core strength is critical to a solid handstand, and the hollow body hold is the perfect pose to get you there.

Think of it as a handstand on your back. Extend your arms up, lift your heart off the ground and hover the legs off the ground as well, keeping your lower back flat against the ground.

4. Facing Away From The Wall

20160519_164702~2Facing away from the wall is how most people practice their handstands.

By kicking up with the wall behind you, you can get over any fear of falling backwards. If you feel good against the wall, practice taking one leg off the wall, then the other.

Keep your arms extended, don’t collapse into the shoulders, and go as close to the wall as possible to avoid having a banana back.

5. Facing the Wall

20160519_164715~2I’ve seen people kick up to the wall for years without ever trying it the other way. Facing the wall instead of facing away adds an extra level of difficulty while ensuring proper alignment.

There are two ways to get into this: You can start in a downward dog against the wall, then walk your feet up the wall as you walk your hands closer to the wall. The other option is to cartwheel into the pose. .

Remember to keep your chest off the wall, and be careful to come out of the pose slowly and safely.

6. Legs-distance away from wall

20160519_165619~2This is a fun one that will really help with your alignment. Measure yourself away from the wall by standing up and placing on foot on the wall. Where you’re standing is exactly where your hands will be.

Then come into handstand with one leg supporting you. Switch the legs or hang out with both legs on the wall in a pike position.

7. Use an exercise ball

20160519_165756~2Walls are nice to practice on because they don’t move. But if you’re looking for a bit more of a challenge, try an exercise ball.

Just like legs-distance away from the wall, you can switch one leg for the other, or keep both legs on the ball in a pike position, with your hips over your shoulders.

8. Kick Up

20160519_165711(1)~220160519_165717~2No one wants to try handstand in yoga class only to fall out sideways and kick a fellow student in the face.

That’s why it’s important to practice jumping from downward dog and landing softly back on the ground.

Donkey kicks are kicking your own tailbone (like in the first picture). In Shakti kicks, you stag one leg (second picture).

Try to float in the air for as long as possible, maybe even holding a handstand for a few seconds or more.

9. Practice Pressing / Floating Up

20160519_165725~2One way to practice any pose is to work towards a more difficult variation. Then the original pose doesn’t seem so bad.

Practicing your press up to handstand involves placing your hands on the ground and trying your best to lift your feet off the ground without jumping.

You can practice pressing up from forward fold, wide forward fold, or even standing-split.

At first, it seems impossible. But as your core strength improves, more and more lightness can be found in the toes.

10. Warm UP and Cool Down

20160519_165805~2Although we don’t often admit it, warming up and cooling down is an essential part of any practice.

With handstands, this means stretching your wrists and shoulders as well as doing a range of motion exercises to keep your joints happy and healthy.

 

When practicing, remember to enjoy the process without attachment to the outcome. And of course, have fun.

What’s your favorite way to practice handstand?