Handstands have become an integral part of my practice. They can be fun and exhilarating, and can take your practice to a whole new level. For beginners, they can be scary and seem impossible. Here is how you can comfortably start a handstand practice.
Step 1: Get out of your head!
The phrase “I can’t” can no longer be in your vocabulary. Although the journey to a free-standing handstand may seem impossible for you, it isn’t! Handstands are not built in a single day… for most people it takes time, practice and patience. If you cannot do something today, that does not mean you will never do it. All of us START some where, and all of us were BEGINNERS at some point. So get it out of your head that you can’t do a handstand and get it into your head that you WILL!
Step 2: Your phalanges are your best-friend
Just as the name implies, the goal is to be able to balance on your HANDS. Your ten little fingers are the key to helping you balance and connect with the earth. The weight of your body should be equally distributed through all four corners of your palms. Too far toward the heel of your hand, you will come down immediately… too far toward your fingers, you will fall the other way and hurt your fingers.
GRIP your mat with your fingers! Keep your fingers active by clawing your mat. Those ten little digits can make or break your handstand. By actively using them, it will keep your weight centered and help you stay balanced.
Step 3: Building your foundation
Time to find a wall space! Begin at the wall and make your way into tabletop position with your heels going up the wall. Set yourself up so that your shoulders are directly over your wrists and your hips are over your knees. Hands are shoulder width distance apart. Remember what we just talked about? Spread your fingers wide, index fingers will be parallel to one another or close to that. Everyone is different, so play with this!
Roll the biceps out! You will hear this often and may think… What the hell does that mean? What this implies is an external rotation of your arms. Still lost? Try this little exercise… Sit up tall and extend both arms out in front of you so that hands are shoulder width apart, hands are flexed and index fingers are parallel to one another. Slowly rotate the hands so that the index fingers start to point towards one another… Feel the upper arm bones pull out of their socket and feel your upper back round? This is NOT what we want. Now, slowly start to rotate the hands back out and bring the index fingers back to parallel… Feel the arm bones plug back in, the upper back straighten and shoulder blades roll down the back. Bingo! You can exaggerate this feeling by actively rolling the shoulders away from your ears.
Now take that external rotation into your tabletop position against the wall!
Step 4: Lift those hips!
Time to add some more weight onto those hands and arms! From tabletop position, push into your hands and lift your hips up into a shortened downward facing dog. Your feet will press into the wall. Keeping your hands and arms exactly as is, slightly shift forward so that the shoulders line up directly over the wrists again. Keep your gaze focused on the ground and slightly beyond your fingers. Feel the weight distribute equally through your palms, feel your fingers claw at the earth.
Take a few breaths and come down if you need to rest!
Step 5: Walk the feet up the wall
Slowly bend one knee and bring the foot higher onto the wall. Push into the wall with that foot so the bent leg straightens and you can slowly bring the second foot up to meet the first.
Step 6: Congratulations on your first handstand!
When you straighten both legs, your hips will stack over your shoulders which should already be over your wrists. Suck your bottom ribs in by not dumping into your chest. This will help prevent the “banana back” or curve in your spine. Engage your core and bring your navel in. Masumi described it best… It’s similar to the feeling you get when someone throws a football to you to catch. Your ribs pull in, your core engages to prepare for the impact. Keep your legs engaged, feet pushing into the wall!
Congratulations! You’ve done your first handstand! Stay here and breath. Try to work your way up to ten deep, slow breaths in and out through your nose. Not only will this get you comfortable on your hands, this exercise will also start to build strength in your wrists, arms, shoulders, core and legs.
Step 7: Take it up a notch!
Only when you are ready, you can start to play with lifting one leg actively into the air. Keep the hips square towards the wall and the inner thigh rolling in. A great way to practice this is by keeping the lifted foot flexed. Are your toes still pointing toward the wall? Always keep one foot solidly pressing into the wall.
Step 8: Relax and do a happy dance!
Congratulations! You did it! Remember… everyone’s practice is unique and progresses at a different pace. Do not compare yourself to others. Your practice is YOUR own.