If you are comfortable walking your feet up the wall and being on your hands, you are ready for the next move (if not, check back to my last post here for a refresher). The next step on your journey to handstand is the “kick up.” As the name implies, it involves kicking your legs up into the air and placing all of your weight onto your hands. I highly encourage you to have a person, and a wall, nearby if this is your first time!
Let’s get started!
Step 1: For my newbies
If you are completely new to the handstand and nervous, please ask a friend, partner, spouse or family member to spot you. Sometimes just having someone there as an added safety measure reduces the fear. Also, I recommend positioning yourself 8″-12″ inches from the wall. This time, fingers will face the wall so that you are kicking up towards it.
Step 2: Get set in downward facing dog
Considered a mild inversion itself, Downward Facing Dog, or Adho Mukha Svanasana, offers the perfect starting position for your handstand practice. Many of the alignment cues for handstand should also be applied in this pose. Here is a quick rundown of what I discussed in my previous post.
- Fingers are spread wide and grip the mat
- Weight should be equally distributed through all 4 corners of your palms
- Biceps externally rotate out
- Arms remain straight!
- Upper arm bones plug into their sockets
- Shoulder blades roll down the back
- Lower ribs corset in
- Navel pulls in, core engages
- Inner thighs rotate in
- BREATHE, BREATHE, BREATHE!
Step 3: Stack the shoulders over your wrists
From Downward Facing Dog, slowly walk the feet in towards the hands so that the shoulders stack directly over your wrists and you come onto the balls of your feet. Keep your gaze down. I usually gaze slightly past my fingertips. Make a mental note – even though you have shifted slightly forward and put more weight into your hands, the above key alignment points have not changed.
Step 4: Lift a leg
Slowly lift one leg high into the air. The key is to avoid opening up your hip. A good way to keep the hips square is to flex the lifted foot and keep the toes pointing down toward the mat. PLAY with lifting both legs up. Everyone usually has a more dominant side or one that just feels more comfortable. In the beginning, stay with that leg. Once you get more comfortable, THEN practice using both!
Step 5: Get ready to spring!
Keeping the hips square, bend the bottom leg. DO NOT lower the top leg down towards the ground! Keep the lifted leg extending up towards the sky.
Step 6: Take flight!
Pushing off of the bottom leg, GENTLY… I repeat.. GENTLY kick off of the ground. The first few times you try, you may only get a few inches off of the ground. THAT IS TOTALLY FINE! You are building confidence and trust in yourself! Take your time and set yourself up in between attempts. Remember that checklist in the beginning of this tutorial? Keep going through it in your mind.
Remember, handstands are a full body posture… so claw your mat, engage your core, floint or point those feet!
Once you kick up, the bottom leg can extend out straight which is usually called an “L” handstand or you can bend it in towards your body (shown below). When learning, I preferred the “L” better for gaining hangtime but please try both. Everyone is different!
Whatever method you choose, ALWAYS remember to breathe. The traditional way is to inhale while kicking up. I like to exhale on the way up. I know, it’s weird. ..but I feel more connection to my core this way. When you are learning and trying to remember what to do, I think it’s more important to just REMEMBER to breathe. So play around with it, and try it both ways.
HAVE FUN and BE SAFE!