How to do handstand
My #pathtothepose for handstand was inspired after a brilliant friend shared her copy of #journeytotheheart with me:
today is all about being light, and allowing yourself to feel the joy of life
It doesn’t take much for us to feel heavy, it’s easy for the worries and sadness and stories of life to weigh us down, and we lose sight of the light and fun and silly. Turn those stories upside-down with some inversion play!
Handstand is like *the* social media yoga pose, and for a lot of people – especially those with gymnastics or dancing backgrounds who have great body awareness – can be very natural. I’m not one of those people.
It takes a lot of work in body and mind to get upside-down. In this post I’ll share some of the tips that helped me and are helping me, for anyone interested in flipping their bodies and their minds upside down.
1 – Get used to being upside-down
Some great advice I’ve been given from many of my amazing teachers in the journey to handstand is getting used to being upside down. Everything feels different when you’re upside down – the muscles you use, the way you breath, even how your face looks 🙃. Get a few inches from the wall and “float” or kick up, rest your legs and butt on the wall – activate your toes and feel for pressing away from the earth. If you’re not at the wall yet, get in any inversion you can (head and heart under your hips – down dog, dolphin, even forward fold) and feel it out. Enjoy the shift in perspective (and some muscles waking up you never knew you had).
2 – Downward facing dog against the wall
This pose was a big step for me towards handstand because you can really feel out the sensation of stacking your hips over shoulders. Start in downward dog with your heels at the wall, take one leg all the way up the wall, and bring your other leg up so it’s at a 90 degree angle to your body. Walk your other leg down, and breathe! It’s pretty scary at first (and second… and third…) to feel that stacking of hips and shoulders; face up to it, even for a few seconds, and you’ll start to develop all the different muscles you need for getting upside-down – and it will get easier every time. If you’re here, I also love the heart opener here when you press your chest towards the wall, and you can also play with lifting one leg at a time to prep for handstand.
3 – Fake it till you make it
OK this isn’t really faking it, but one thing I found really helpful finding handstand were all the amazing poses you can do at the wall – these build your confidence and get you used to being upside down. My hips and legs are quite bendy, so eagle legs is one I play with. You could also try baddha konasana legs (knees wide, soles of the feet together), bringing one knee towards your chest, or pigeon at the wall (facing the other way). It’s also amazing what this does for your balance and to develop the tiny muscles in your wrists. What’s your favorite pose at the wall?
4 – Hop to it – bunny hops
From downward dog raise one leg, bend your other leg and spring up – maybe a little, maybe a little more, and maybe you catch some air. Do 3 – 5 then swap sides. If you’re feeling good, maybe you try lift your other leg up too! Try it, play with it, and most importantly don’t take yourself to seriously – everything is a process!
5 – Practice
Moving from bunny hops to handstand could take days, it could take months. Practice the poses we’ve talked about and you’ll build the strength in body and mind to get upside down – and stay there. Feel for the moments when your hips and legs stack over your shoulders, press the earth away from you to activate your arms and shoulders, and press out through active feet too . Be patient with your body, and it will come!
Bonus: plan your exit
A lot of the fear for me around handstands was what happens if I go over the other side – I was (am) afraid of falling, afraid of hurting myself, and perhaps most importantly afraid of looking stupid. A while back I was playing around with some friends kids who did gymnastics and saw these ways to exit a handstand which were so natural to them. Goes to show you that your teachers come in many shapes and sizes.
Practice somewhere very soft – I chose the meadow that is our Texas wildflower-covered garden right now. For the roll I found it easier to tuck into a ball in handstand by tucking my chin and bringing my knees in, then bending my arms to lower down. While these aren’t my go to landings when practicing handstand, the fact that I know my body can do them means I have a little less fear about getting upside-down!