When life gets you down, get upside down.
Handstands and why we do them.
One of the greatest side effects of a regular yoga practice is having fun. Balancing upside down in adho mukha vrikshasana (handstand pose) is not as advanced as you may think and it is an asana that yields a lot of joy as you practice your way to balance. The health and wellness benefits are immediate so you are doing your body and soul a great favour each moment you strive toward your achievable goal.
How to do handstand pose
There are different techniques for getting into handstand and you may like to begin with a wall for support, the centre of a room or an open outdoor space (park, beach, field) to avoid injury if you fall.
A popular approach is to begin in downward facing dog (adho mukha svanasana) with a wall behind you (allow around 15 to 20cm between you and the wall). Slowly walk your feet toward your hands, making sure your shoulders are positioned above your wrists, with your palms spread on the mat and middle fingers pointing forward. It is very important to have your weight evenly distributed throughout each finger.
As you feel strong in the hands, lift one leg and bend the other knee and lightly hop or jump off the supporting bent leg. Tense your heels, thighs and shoulder blades together as you place your legs to rest on the supporting wall. Observe your arms – are they lengthened? This will give you strength.
It is very important to stretch your wrists when practising handstands. Expected mothers should also refrain from handstands unless being guided by a yoga teacher – trust in your skills and intuition.
As you practice daily, you will find it easier to hop from downward facing dog with both legs, reducing the support of the bent knee and thus gaining strength through your muscles rather than rising into handstand from a kick momentum.
Are you holding your breath when you are inverted? This is common when beginning handstand as deep breathing can interrupt your balance whilst inverted. Find a comfortable regular breathing pattern that does not disrupt your handstand, this will increase your ability to hold the inversion at length.
Most of us are on our feet or sitting down most of the day, compressing and shortening the spine. Handstand increases blood flow to the head and activates the neck, whilst grounding your hands into the mat challenges the body’s equilibrium and reversing the effects of gravity. You also stretch the abdomen, shoulders, arms and wrists.
Reversing the blood flow in the legs and your visceral organs aids in tissue regeneration, while having your abdominal organs pushing on your diaphragm aids in deeper exhalation, increasing the volume of carbon dioxide removed from the lungs.
The increased and reversed flow of blood into the brain energizes and shifts your mental perspective. Handstand pose is a great yogic tool for boosting confidence and increases focus, whilst improving your body-mind connection.
Grounding your hands to the mat, or earth, during handstand pose is also great for grounding your body and mind, especially when the breath is controlled, and can be great for stress release and improved moods. Handstand pose brightens your spirit and is a lot of fun!