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How To Do a Handstand and Stay Up

Most of us dreaded gym class in school. One of the hardest tasks was learning how to do a handstand and stay up. Contrary to popular belief, you don’t need to be on the US Olympic Gymnastics team to perform a steady handstand. It takes patience, practice and good technique.

This video shows getting up into a handstand from a yoga perspective. I’d approach it differently but there are some good tips here.

 

 

If you have never attempted a handstand before, have a friend hold your legs as you kick up into a handstand. You can also practice against a wall. Whichever route you choose, make sure to follow the same guidelines below on how to do a handstand and stay up:

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  • Place your hands on the floor in front of you. Make sure they are about shoulder width apart. If you get too wide, you will fall and not have a good balance.
  • Another tip is to spread your fingers out to make a wider base. It is essential that you lock your elbows once you begin the handstand. This is crucial for a good platform.
  • Begin by placing your hands on the floor in front of you with your elbows locked.
  • Place your dominant leg forward and kick up into a handstand with your weaker leg.

You may need to practice doing a few kicks to get the right balance. If you are worried about falling over, try to use a softer surface to practice your handstand on. Grass is good to start. Once you are able to get yourself up into a vertical position, look at your hands to keep yourself balanced. Avoid moving your head around and keep your legs locked together. It is a good practice to point your toes to the sky. This helps your balance and presents a nicer image. Allowing your legs to dangle over your head is not a good technique because it could throw you off balance and it doesn’t look good. Use your palms for balance. If you start to fall forward, push with your fingers. If you find yourself falling backwards, push on your palm heels for balance. Staying up in the correct shape requires a lot of strength, which can be achieved through practice.

Finally, watch the video and take notes on things that you should not do if you want to stay up when doing a handstand. Like most things, it will take time and practice to know how to do a handstand and stay up.

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How to do a Headstand Yoga

Sirsasana is another name for the Yoga Headstand, which is a challenging posture within the inversion category. Other inversions include postures such as the handstand, the forearm balance and the shoulder stand. There’s a wide array of benefits to be had from learning how to do a headstand in yoga, but one should never attempt a headstand without taking the time to properly learn the correct alignment and setup for this particular yoga pose.

Preparation and Alignment

To get prepped and aligned for the headstand, get into your hands and knees.

  • Lower onto your elbows, making sure your elbows are under your shoulders and your knees are under your hips. Bring your hands together, and interlace your fingers, making sure to tuck under your outer most pinky.
  • Lower the crown of your head down and place it on the floor, cup your head with your interlaced fingers.
  • As if you were coming into the downward facing dog position, bring your hips up over your shoulders by walking up towards your head.

The Full Headstand

Now that you’re prepped and aligned, you are most on your way to learning how to do a headstand yoga. All that is left is to go into the full headstand.

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  • Bring your knees and bring them in towards your chest while lifting both of your feet into the air.
  • Allow yourself to stabilize, and then straighten your legs. Do your best to bring both of your legs up at the same time.
  • Push up into the balls of your feet and turn your thighs inwards just slightly.
  • Push down deep into your forearms.

You should try to hold the pose for at least 10 breaths count. Congratulations, you just learned how to do a headstand yoga! To get yourself out of this pose safely, just slowly lower each leg one at a time on to the floor.

Benefits and Risks

There are both physical and mental rewards to the yoga headstand. You’ll find that this pose will increase strength in your arms and legs, as well as positive effects on your pituitary glands and lungs. Some claims state that the headstand pose can alleviate stress and depression, by changing your outward perspective of things. It is a fact that the act of acting against the gravity helps with the cleansing of our intestines. However, if you should suffer from high or low blood pressure, a heart condition, or back/neck injuries, you should not attempt this pose. People without sufficient upper body strength can also compress their spine and damage their body in doing this pose. Make sure that you are totally prepared and capable before attempting the yoga headstand.

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Yoga Handstands

In Yoga handstands make up one area that a lot of people avoid, because they can be much more difficult then any number of the other poses. But they should not be avoided. While it may take lots of practice you can learn how to do the handstand and other inverted poses.

It’s important to note that the handstand has been called the king of poses because of the benefits it brings. It strengthens the whole body, requires tremendous coordination, and it is an inversion which brings plenty of its own benefits.

Yoga Handstands

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While not the best demonstation in the world, this video shows you what practicing handstands in yoga may look like (if you happen to be a very attractive female).

The handstand is not the first inversion or handbalancing pose you should work on. Far from it. There are a number of other poses that will build up your ability.

Pincha Mayurasana (Feathered Peacock Pose or commonly called the Forearm Stand)

Salamba Sirsasana (Supported Headstand)

Salamba Sarvangasana (Supported Shoulderstand)

Bakasana (Crane Pose)

Parsva Bakasana (Side Crane Pose)

Mayurasana (Peacock Pose)

Tolasana (Scale Pose)

And of course the handstand itself which is called Adho Mukha Vrksasana.

This is just like I teach in the Secrets of the Handstand System, and in fact some of the poses or drills are the same. If you want a step-by-step system to achieving the handstand check it out. Although its not geared toward yoga it will work just the same.

There are a number of variations of the handstand that can be done like the scorpion pose below, which adds extreme back flexibility into the mix. (Also note that the balance will actually be easier here then a straight bodied handstand as the center of gravity is lower.)

Scorpion Pose

So by working with the easier poses you’ll build up your balancing ability and control you need to hold the handstand. Once you’re there you can begin to go even further with your yoga handstands.

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Handstand Yoga Sanskrit

Some people are interested in the Sanskrit term for the handstand in yoga. If that’s you then here is the answer.

Adho Mukha Vrksasana

Like its inverted cousins such as Forearm Balance and Headstand, a major obstacle to Handstand is a natural fear of falling. So the basic pose will be described with the heels supported against a wall. Make sure that there are no hanging pictures or other decorations on the wall directly above you.

(ah-doh moo-kah vriks-SHAHS-anna) adho mukha = face
downward (adho = downward; mukha = face)
vrksa = tree

From Yoga Journal

Personally I find the word handstand much easier to remember and pronounce then Adho Mukha Vrksasana so I’ll be sticking to that.

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Handstand on Forearms

The handstand on forearms is commonly called the forearm stand.

There are also a number of other names like the lion or tiger stand. In yoga it has been called Pincha Mayurasana or the Feathered Peacock pose.

It is a great exercise for opening up the upper back and shoulders. It can also be used for lower back flexibility. In the following video you’ll see a woman doing just that. Pay attention to the different positions she takes with her legs, and also how she starts off with support in this position. If you’ve never done the forearm stand before I would highly recommend doing it against a wall the first time.

I typically teach the handstand on forearms as one of the lead-up stunts towards the true handstand, as once you’re use to it, it’s quite easy to balance in. For more details check out the Secrets of the Handstand Quick Start.

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Handstand to Crow

This post is about moving from a handstand to crow position. The crow is the common name used in yoga, for what I generally refer to as the frogstand. It is also called a bakasana.

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You’ll notice here the strap around her arms. This is a prop used to help keep the arms in the proper alignment. I’ve never tried it out myself, but it looks like it could be helpful in preventing the arms from flaring out.

Moving from the handstand to crow is easier then going the opposite way, the crow to handstand as is shown in the following video. Of course this can then be done with lowering back down in the same manner.

The handstand to crow and vice versa can be done with straighter arms or arms with more bend.

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Handstand Scorpion

The handstand scorpion is a minor contortion exercise where you go into a big back bend and bend the knees, usually touching them to the top of the head. Sometimes it’s taken even further and the feet come beneath the head.

Here’s a really good video that shows the handstand scorpion and more.

She is also doing a movement she calls the Tic Toc which is going into the bridge and back. There may be a different use of that name for a move in gymnastics.

I’ve seen the handstand fall into a bridge before and done it myself. However getting back into the handstand from that position is much harder. Give it a try yourself. It’s helpful to have a great base in bridging movements before trying any of this.

This Scorpion pose is also known as Vrschikasana in yoga, although that may refer to the version where it’s a forearm stand rather then on the hands. And an interesting little philosophy on this move.

The head, which is the seat of knowledge and power, is also the seat of pride, anger, hatred, jealousy, intolerance and malice. These emotions are more deadly than the poison which the scorpion carries in its sting. The yogi, by stamping on his head with his feet, attempts to eradicate these self-destroying emotions and passions. By kicking his head he seeks to develop humility, calmness and tolerance and thus to be free of ego. The subjugation of the ego leads to harmony and happiness. Read more here.

Work on your handstand scorpion and you’ll not only build balancing ability, but great back flexibility and it can lead up to the other movements shown here. Plus it may help you free yourself from your ego 🙂

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Yoga Hand Balancing Flow Video

Here is a yoga video that includes hand balancing.

Yes, it is an attractive woman in her underwear but don’t let that distract you 🙂

By watching this you can observe a couple things.

One, that yoga and hand balancing go hand in hand (pun intended). Yoga has many hand balances in it. You’ll see pressups to a handstand, a version of the frogstand, the headstand, handstands with different leg positions including the lotus position, and more.

You can also see how you might want to put a little hand balancing flow together, going from one move to the next.

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Thanks to John for sending this video to me.

Want some more yoga positions. Check out the Yoga Trapeze as a fun tool for making inversions easy.

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