Handstands. To use @beliznamliyoga’s descriptor, it is one of the most funstrating yoga asana out there!
How do you get your handstand if you are not naturally inclined to invert or if you have no history in gymnastics or the movement culture? It isn’t impossible. Some science helps, but 90% of it – no matter under what name you are trying to handstand – comes down to the essence of yoga: quieting, listening to your body. Feeling. Communicating. Feedback. Responding in kind ie through the body. I’m not claiming to be an expert or tutor. I’ve just learned a vast amount over the last 5 years through various teachings but most importantly through my experience. Here’s the best advice I can give:
1. TIME. Give it time. You are not going to get your handstand in a week. In all honesty, it will take years – because once you’ve got a basic hold, there are more avenues to explore and you’ll be a beginner all over again.
2. PATIENCE & PERSISTENCE. You will fail a thousand times and even when you get it you’ll still fall. Learn to be ok with that. Accept that for every 1 solid hold, 9 will be cr@p!
3. FUN. Don’t get hung up on it. Persist with training it, yes. Dedicate yourself to training it, yes. But don’t train handstands exclusively. I got my best handstand progress when I stopped training them for 9 hours out of every 10 training hours. Keep a very rounded practice and don’t obsess. Let go of the need to get this one skill. I do better handstands if I train them for 1 hour out of every 10.
4. LEARN TO FAIL SAFELY. I cartwheel (twist) out of handstand if I tip it too far over as most do. Practice cartwheels. Practice coming out of a handstand against a wall. Don’t practice if you feel you might be too weak to hold your weight on your hands.
5. KEEP BREATHING. Sounds obvious but I’m guilty of stopping breathing when I kick up. So are a lot of other people! I counter it by exhaling as I kick up into it. That way breathing comes easier.
Understanding ‘how’ handstands work can help. It can give you things to focus and feedback on.
?Arms: Push the floor away. Hard. This graphic shows the difference between sinking into the floor and pushing the floor away.
?Shoulders: open shoulders rotated outwards, imagine wrapping the triceps around the back to bring the shoulders level with the ears.
?Stacking: differs is you’re making shapes but when learning, your key stacks are hips above shoulders above wrists, all straight in line.
?Hands: keep them active. Your weight on your feet shifts constantly, balance would be very hard without toes. Use your fingers the same – learn to spider your hands, put pressure through fingertips and palms when you are balancing your weight.
?Reach: keeping the legs engaged is hard to remember with so much else to think about. So just imagine stretching as long as you can. Feet into the sky. Point your toes. Your legs will be engaged and help build strength and balance in your handstand.
There are a million methods out there, every discipline claims theirs is The Best. I don’t buy it – every body is unique. I have shared what helps me the most at the request of others. I draw on advice given out by yoga teachers, yoga books, GMB Fitness, Gymnastic Bodies, CrossFit Gymnastics, personal trainers, trained handbalancers, circus performers and teachers, and I combine the tips I learned from them that were most effective for me – and added what exactly the keys were for me to get my safe freestanding handstand.
It might do nothing for some but it might fill in a missing link for another. Common sense is as important, if not MORE important, than the science part.
Want your handstand enough to drive you – but not so you are blinkered to everything else. It’s an interesting skill, but it’s not everything.