Our in house inversions guru Nina Kolar breaks down a “How To” for handstand, a powerful inversion. Nina is in our Yoga Boutique and teaches 4 days a week, as well as workshop intensives on inversion and arm balances. Check her handstand “how to” out below!
Over the past ten years there has been handstand fever that has swept the yoga community. We see people popping up into handstands on mountain tops, on beaches, in their back yards, and we think “woah! That looks badass!” I can count on my fingers and toes students who walk into their first yoga class and tell me “I just really want to handstand!” I am fully with you there, but yogis, you must first walk before you can run. We will walk through the prep you can do everyday for handstand, but also know there are prerequisites for this pose in the form of other arm balances and inversions. Think of them as your introductory course to inverting, so as you work on this prep ALSO work on crow pose, headstands, side crow, forearm stand, etc. These will help you build the core strength AND body awareness necessary for handstand. I will be leading inversion workshops this fall/winter at The Firm, so if you don’t know how to do those, we’ll go over them together :-). Keep your eyes on the workshop schedule! Handstand is a powerful posture because usually as you journey with handstand, you also are forced to take a look at your relationship with fear, and with learning new things. It is SO empowering to use this posture to get to know that side of yourself better.
So let’s dive in, handstand. The #1 thing you can do for handstand is core strengtheners. Particularly exercises getting into your lower core. One of my favorite exercises for this is boat crunches.
Find Navasana, boat pose. Grabbing behind your thighs and lifting your toes up off the ground. Keeping your shoulder drawing together and down your back. Pull your chest towards your thighs and your thighs toward your chest, engaging your core top to bottom AND side to side. Engaging your core lock by lifting low belly back to spine and up towards your rib cage. Once you’ve established your boat pose breathe in and exhale to low boat, firing up your low belly by lowering half way down to the ground. Inhale back to boat, exhale to low boat. Continue this 20 times, take a heart opener, and then REPEAT 20 times! A strong core = A steady handstand!
Your shoulders are key in Handstand, and there are a lot of teeny tiny stabilizing muscles that need to be fired up and strong to support your posture! This is a great exercise for that. Take a yoga block and hold it right in line with your eyes, press your hands into the outer sides of the block to fire up your shoulders, and hold for 30 seconds.
After 30 seconds lift the block up and over head, still actively pushing your hands into the block, hold above your head for 30 seconds. Repeats this for 2 minutes, building up to five minutes! Strong shoulders = A steady handstand!
Your forearms are SO important in this inversion. If you are a climber, you already have juiced up forearms, but for those who don’t climb do this exercise. You might feel silly at first, but after 30 seconds you will feel those forearms getting stronger! Lift your arms up overhead, but keep your shoulders out of your ears. With arms lifted squeeze your hands into tiny fists, and then let go. Repeat this over and over for one minute. As you build strength work up to THREE minutes without stopping! After you’re done, massage out your forearms and give your wrists a nice stretch!
Wall Walk Ups
This is the BEST exercise for handstand prep. I see so many students kicking up against a wall for handstand, and that is great practice, but it doesn’t teach you how to FALL and how to work those stabilizing muscles that catch you once you’ve kicked up. Wall walk ups teach you ALL that, this is where the mental game comes into play. Find a downward dog with your butt towards a wall. Start to walk backwards so eventually your feet will hit the wall, and you will start walking yourself up the wall. Make sure to keep your hands under your shoulders and look right in-between your thumbs. Walk up until you can feel your hips stack over your shoulders. NO banana backing! Handstand is not a backbend, many flexible yogis will curve their back as initially it makes balance easier, but ultimately it is bad for your lumbar spine. Make sure to stack up your spine, lifting through your tailbone. Making sure core lock and root lock support you. Try to hold this wall walk up for one minute, breathing and pushing through your hands. Walk back down, catch your breath, and then do it for another minute.
Eventually, you’ll become less scared, and you’ll take both feet of the wall. You will fall out of it, see that falling isn’t SO scary, and then BOOM! You’re doing handstand in the middle of the room :-). Make sure to check the schedule for inversions workshops coming up, so we can practice this together!