Do you get nervous anytime your yoga instructor begins to talk about handstands?
If so, you’re not alone — we’ve all been there before. No matter how badly we want it, flipping upside down is a lot easier said than done. But don’t get discouraged if you find yourself struggling to nail your handstand. With a bit of practice and preparation, you absolutely will get there!
Prepare for handstand by practicing these five powerful yoga poses on a consistent basis. They’ll help you cultivate the strength of body and mind that you’ll need to correctly hold a handstand with ease:
1. Plank Pose
Believe it or not, handstands are so much more than arm strength alone. It’s really all about cultivating a strong core and sense of alignment, with a bit of arm strength thrown into the mix. Plank Pose is one of my favorite ways to build the arm and core strength necessary for any arm balance, including handstand.
Begin in Downward Dog. Moving from your abs, inhale to come forward into Plank Pose. Wrists should align beneath the shoulders; shoulder blades should move down the spine, and the core should stay strong. The goal is to look like a flat plank or board—that means no dropping or rounding through the spine or buttocks.
Hold Plank Pose for at least 30 seconds. You can also move from Plank Pose into a few push-ups if you want to keep building your arm strength.
2. Dolphin Pose
Dolphin Pose is another fabulous way to build your core strength while also preparing for various arm balances. And it’s the perfect post to lead into after practicing plank.
To move into Dolphin Pose, being in your Plank Pose. From here, drop your forearms to the floor for Dolphin Plank. The elbows and the hands should ideally stay shoulder-width apart. Keep the core and thighs strong to hold the pose.
From Dolphin Plank, begin to tip-toe the feet towards the forearms as far as possible, preferably bringing the hips to stack directly above the shoulders. Hold Dolphin Pose for five breaths, and then walk the feet back to Dolphin Plank. Repeat the sequence five times.
For many (myself included), the most difficult aspect of achieving handstand is the fear that holds us back. It doesn’t seem natural to flip ourselves upside-down, and finding our balance once inverted can be tricky if we aren’t used to it.
To get accustomed to being upside down, start by practicing Headstand. With the base of your head as well as your forearms, you’ll have a greater foundation to practice with. You can also practice in front of a wall to ensure you feel protected from falling on your back.
To move into Headstand, start on your hands and knees. Clasp your hands together to form a triangle between your forearms and your chest. Nestle your head inside your hands. Using your core, begin to lift your feet up in the air, transitioning your body weight onto your forearms (you want very little weight on your head.) Move your shoulders away from your ears, and continue to breath. Stay here for as long as you can, tuning into your sense of balance. Feel free to explore the pose by moving the feet and legs around while still maintaining your balance.
4. Feathered Peacock Pose
One you feel comfortable in your headstand, begin to practice Feathered Peacock Pose (Pincha Mayurasana). This inversion is slightly more complicated then headstand; however, for many, it is easier than handstand as you can balance on your entire forearms.
Begin in Dolphin Pose. Activate the core and walk the feet in towards the hands as far as you possibly can. From here, start to kick up one foot, and then the other. Activate the legs and push up through the feet to help you find strength and balance in the pose.
If this is too difficult, try squeezing a block between the hands and just playing with lifting one leg at a time. Pincha Mayurasana is not an easy pose, but it is fun and invigorating — and a powerful way to build strength for handstand.
5. Crow Pose
While Crow Pose might seem “easier” than inversions such as Headstand and Pincha, it is still a potent way to cultivate the strength you need for Handstand. Not only does Crow require a lot of core strength, but it is one of the few inversions mentioned above that requires you to use your hands as your foundation.
Firmly plant your hands shoulder-width apart. Spread the fingers as wide as possible, and place equal weight on both hands. Tuck the knees high into the arms while shifting your weight onto your hands. Squeeze the inner thighs, lift the core, and squeeze the shoulder blades together. Begin to lean forward, keeping the gaze out in front of your hands. Then play with lifting your feet off the ground. When you feel stable and balanced, try to straighten your arms as much as possible. Hold Crow for as long as you can.
When you’re ready to begin practicing handstands, remember that it is all about… having fun and listening to your body. Prepare for handstand by practicing with a wall or a partner as you learn how to trust yourself and find your balance upside down. For extra success, remember to squeeze your thighs together, draw the shoulder blades in, and — most importantly — keep practicing!
Handstands may not be easy, but once you nail your first one, you’ll find yourself striking the pose in all places, at all times of day.
What tips do YOU have for practicing handstand? Which pose above are you going to practice today? Share with other yogis in the comment section below.
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