Tag Archives | Holding Your Breath

How To Breathe Properly in A Handstand – Guest Post by Ryan Hurst

When you first try a handstand, there are just so many things to think about. Your hand and shoulder position, where to direct pressure through your hands, hip and leg positioning, and every other detail from head to toe.

With all the things you have to think about in the handstand, it’s pretty easy to forget about your breathing, and the tendency is to hold your breath. Well, that’s not a great idea. Along with raising blood pressure there is a chance – albeit small – of passing out when you hold your breath.

Obviously, passing out when you are upside down is not good!

Ryan Hurst One Hand Cane Handstand

Ryan Hurst doing a One Hand Handstand on canes.

Holding your breath is a natural habit though, especially in difficult exercises that require a lot of concentration. The handstand certainly qualifies as that kind of exercise.

In the video below I talk a bit about how I monitor my clients and teach them how to avoid holding their breath. It’s definitely best to have a coach or training partner right there to give you cues and help you, but even if you don’t have someone available, the techniques I’ll share with you can be immediately applied in your practice.

Signs You May Be Holding Your Breath

We receive a lot of different questions from our training clients, and one of the more common issues when people start practicing handstands is a feeling of increased pressure in the head and around the eyes.

Some of this pressure is just a minor phenomena that changes for the better with more practice and improved technique, but breath holding is a very likely culprit.

You also may notice fatiguing much more quickly than your current level of conditioning would indicate. Holding your breath while muscles are actively working is not just dangerous, but it will also decrease your performance. Hard working muscles require the increased oxygen intake and carbon dioxide expulsion to work properly and well.

Also common are sensations of lightheadedness and dizziness. I shouldn’t need to tell you this is a bad thing to happen when you are upside down practicing handstands.

Another sign is that when you end a set you hear yourself loudly exhaling. The exhale was loud because you were keeping your air by holding your breath.

How To Keep Breathing

One of the techniques I use with my clients is to simply engage in conversation with them. It’s impossible to be holding your breath and talking at the same time. Along with keeping them breathing and alive (kind of important), it also helps them to focus on just a few points at a time. This is important, not just for the handstand, but also when doing other exercises that require a lot of concentration and practice.

Another way I keep my clients breathing is by having them recite a favorite phrase, or something like the alphabet, over and over again. It might be a bit boring, but it gets the job done.

Other Tactics for Smoother Breathing in Your Handstand Practice

Treat handstands as a skill, not as an exercise in which to get tired!

The key to improvement in a skill is consistent practice with as good technique as you can muster. If you keep pushing into fatigue too often, you may end up ingraining poor form.

RyanteachingHS

Ryan teaching body alignment in the handstand

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End the set when your breathing becomes labored and then try again when you’ve caught your breath and can control it.

These basic but important strategies for breath control in a handstand will keep your practice safe, consistent, and successful.

Author Bio

Ryan Hurst is the Program Director for GMB Fitness, with over 20 years of experience in strength and movement coaching. He holds black belts in Kendo, Judo, and Shorinji Kempo, and he practiced for 10 years as a competitive gymnast. These days, Ryan spends most of his time playing with his kids and helping others move better.

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More Handstand Q&A

Gonna dip into the mailbag today and answer a couple questions.

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I had a question that relate to both my bridging, and hand balancing. When I do either, the blood rushes to my head very soon, not letting me hold either very long. Is this normal? Will it go away after more time? Are there any special ways to get around this? I would like to be able to work on both more than I am able to now because of that. Thank you for you great websites and emails!
Thank you,
Justin

That’s just a sign of gravity doing its job. The human body is not normally use to being upside down so when you start out it can cause you to feel like your head is about to explode.

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I would guess that this happens to most people in one degree or another. And it will get better with time just as you become accustom to the position.

In addition, here’s two things to try out. Holding your breath compounds this problem. Make sure you are breathing easily while you bridge or do handstands. It can be tough in the beginning but you need to breathe for best results.

Second you can do an exercise specifically to get yourself familiar with being upside down. Just go up into a headstand (against a wall or not) and hold for a long time. With practice you’ll be able to do this for minutes at a time. And then you’ll be able to deal with blood rushing to your head.

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Handstands are really frustrating to me.  For a while now I’ve been having consistent 3 sec handstands and it hasn’t been improving. I’m also a bboy and my planches are better than my handstands, I can hold a planche-ish thing with my body horizontal and my back bent with my legs slightly at an angle. Kinda like this \_.   Any tips?
Nate

I think the fact that you are strong from break dancing may actually be holding you back on the handstand. The handstand is really a balanced position. You don’t want to have to rely on your strength to hold you there, unlike the planche.

Professor Orlick use to say that it was easier to teach a little kid the handstand than a strong weightlifter because the kid would have to find the balance, while the weightlifter would try to use his strength. If you want to hear more from Prof. Orlick check out the Hand Balancing Mastery Course.

Its hard to say without some more details but give either of these techniques a try. If you are underbalancing, going toward that planche, push back upwards into the handstand. If you find yourself overbalancing correct yourself and get back to neutral.

But the main thing is to just keep working on it. Set a goal to hit 5 seconds and work on that. Really get a feel for the position. In time it will come.

Good Luck and Good Hand Balancing,
Logan Christopher

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