Have you ever wanted to see the world from another perspective? From a handstand, you can. Doing a handstand is one of the best ways to see things from a different angle – literally. While handstands can take practice to master, yogis, gymnasts, athletes, and everyday people swear by them as a surefire way to refresh your mind and tone your body.
Learning how to do a handstand is a full-body workout that improves your stability, flexibility, and builds strength. A handstand engages the upper arms, but the real source of stability comes from the core. Doing a handstand also can help you strengthen and stretch your spine, shoulders, and wrists.
Most of our lives, our heads stay above our hips and feet. Even during sleep, often the head stays propped up above the rest of the body, on a pillow. Constantly sitting hunched over a computer, desk, or phone screen can put undue wear and tear on the neck, straining its natural curvature and raising the risks of poor posture. Some of these include incontinence, back pain, spinal dysfunction, joint degeneration, heartburn, and carrying abdominal weight.
By contrast, occasionally inverting our head-to-hips stance comes with a number of possible health benefits. A handstand is generally recognized as one of the safest and best ways to practice inversion. Handstands help your blood circulation and stimulate your lymphatic drainage system, encouraging waste removal from your body. It may reduce swelling and help with pain, and can increase your energy levels. In addition to building flexibility and strength, doing a handstand can also boost your mood and your confidence.
How to Learn to Do A Handstand
Because stability in a handstand comes from your core, one good way to begin to learn how to do a handstand is to test your strength. Start lying on your back, arms straight along your sides. Tense all of your muscles, focusing on your core and keeping your body straight. In this position, have a friend or coach lift your feet slowly about 3 feet off the floor. Try to keep your body tight and aligned as they lift, so that your entire body moves up with your feet in one unbroken line.
Once you’re able to keep your core and legs straight when lifted, you know you have the abdominal stability you’ll need to execute a handstand.
L Shapes: Handstand Progression
One of the most common techniques for learning how to do a handstand is the L shape or wall handstand. This yoga handstand method helps you train your muscles slowly, as you develop the stability to hold the pose on your own. Begin on all fours, wrists under shoulders, feet at a wall. Lift into a shortened Downward Dog pose. From there, walk your feet up the wall, until you form a right angle. In this L shape, bring your shoulders over your ears into the hollow body posture. Remain here for ten breaths, then walk yourself back down. Or, raise one leg, then the other, into a true handstand.
You can also begin in the opposite direction facing the wall, and donkey kick your way up towards it. Catch your feet against the wall, and then engage your core to allow your feet to move above you, into a handstand.
Once you’ve mastered a handstand against a wall, spend 3 to 5 minutes a day practicing without it. Try kicking into a handstand from the center of a room, or walking away from the wall once you’ve established the pose.
Handstand Hold Basics
Creating a solid foundation for a handstand is the key to success. Your hands should be shoulder-width apart, fingers wide-spread. Keep your head in a neutral position, gaze down towards your thumbs. Hold your shoulders and elbows as if you were going to do a pushup.
You can increase your shoulder mobility by warming up with windmills or a Seated Forward Fold. Additionally, planks, hollow body holds, and decline leg raises can help build the muscles you’ll need to do a handstand.
Exit Strategies for a Handstand
Often, mastering a handstand is about confidence. Fear of falling stops many people from meeting their handstand yoga goals. It may help to have a strategy prepared for your dismount, or how to land if you lose control. Popular “falling” strategies for handstands include tucking your chin into a forward roll, or cartwheeling out of the pose.
How to Hold a Handstand
To be able to hold your handstand longer, as well as move into more complicated exercises, build your endurance and balance with handstand shoulder taps. In a handstand, shift your weight slowly onto one hand. Raise the other up and tap your shoulder. You may not reach on the first try, but shifting your weight gradually simulates movement. Once you can tap each shoulder, progress to thigh taps, and then to handstand walking.
Who Shouldn’t Try the Handstand Pose
A handstand is generally recognized as safe for most people. Some notable exceptions, however, include anyone with weakened wrists or who has circulatory issues, like high blood pressure or glaucoma. Additionally, anyone who is pregnant should consult with their doctor before doing inversions.
Finally, it’s best to allow yourself time to ease into any demanding exercise regimen, giving your body a chance to build up muscle, flexibility, and stamina before plunging into difficult poses. Doing so will help you avoid injury and give yourself the best chance for success.
Whether you’re a big gymnastics fan or not, learning to do a handstand can offer many tangible health benefits that you’re likely missing out on in regular workouts. While it can take time and confidence to master, once you learn how to do a handstand, it’s a rush you’ll never forget.