A yoga handstand might seem easy when you see a fitness expert performing it on Television, but what about the time when someone asks you to do it? If your response typically leans towards a no, then you are not alone!
A yoga handstand requires strength, mobility, balance, and, most importantly- LOTS of practice. Even though this isn’t something you can master overnight, this blog will break down the process and make a handstand easy for you.
We will also go through common mistakes and handstand progressions and share a step-by-step guide on how to do a yoga handstand. Dive in!
Benefits of a Yoga Handstand
Here are some health benefits of doing a yoga handstand regularly:
Increased Blood Flow
Forcing your hands down the mat while your body is up-side-down results in neck activation due to increased blood flow towards the upper part of our body. This also helps you breathe effectively since your body is weighed down by the weight of its internal organs, thus placing pressure on the diaphragm and increasing the quantity of inhaled carbon dioxide. Breathing effectively also rejuvenates your body and reduces anxiety levels.
Strengthens Upper Body
One of the primary prerequisites for performing a handstand is strong upper body muscles. A yoga handstand will train muscles like arms, upper back, and shoulders. Furthermore, since these muscles are actively involved in the balancing act, you gain better control over them and can engage your core and abs for an extended period without fatigue.
Proper physical balance is highly crucial when performing a handstand. Whether you do handstand progressions by leaning against a wall or can balance yourself without it, a handstand pose helps you balance your upper and lower body without shifting too much of your weight on one end.
Benefits Mental Health
When upside down, there is a resurgence of oxygen and blood in your brain. This helps your brain feel more ‘alive’ since our brain uses up about 20% of the total oxygen inhaled. This increases cognitive ability and improves mental performance.
How to Do a Yoga Handstand: Step-by-step
Handstands require a perfect combination of strength and flexibility. Therefore, when starting with your practice, always ensure that your body is warmed up to avoid injury.
The main muscle groups that need to be warmed up before a handstand are:
Wrists and forearms
Having a good grip is quite imperative when doing handstands. You do not want to slip or feel any pain in your wrists. To help with this, you can use a set of angled yoga blocks or place a towel under your palm for a better hold. In addition, you can do wrist stretches to warm up your forearm.
Shoulders and Chest
Strong shoulders will help you maintain balance. For example, take a backpack and hold the top end with your hands while keeping your arm and elbow joint straight. Thread this up and down in a 180-degree vertical motion. Another easy way to encourage shoulder mobility is to perform straight arm circles.
For this, move your hand in a circular motion to a larger circle, starting with a small one. Make sure that your arm stays straight at all times. 5-10 push-ups or a couple of diamond push-ups would do the trick for the chest.
Performing a plank is the best way to activate your core and keep your spine straight. Beginners should try to hold the position for a minimum of 30 seconds to feel the activation in their core.
- Place a mat against the wall and move into the downward dog. Make sure to leave about 5-7 inches of space between your head and the wall so that you have some room to move later.
- Step forward with your feet a little to shorten your stance. When doing this, ensure your palm is wide open and you are putting pressure on your thumb and index fingers.
- Pull your dominant leg closer to your chest while keeping the other foot planted on the ground. Next, straighten the other leg, moving your weight slightly forward so that your shoulders are stacked over your wrists.
- Thrust your right leg forward and sweep up your left leg to gain momentum. Practice this a few times so you can lift one of the legs vertically. Once this is done, follow along with the other leg.
- Keep your core tight, and remember to keep your hand in its position instead of fidgeting.
- During the first few days, you might be unable to pull both legs while hopping. However, your balance will improve as you work your way and practice daily.
- Once you can keep both legs floating above the ground, continue to stretch your feet and tailbone and avoid sinking into your shoulders.
- If your balance tips over, rest your legs against the wall and try to come back to the same position again. Hold for a few seconds and increase the time progressively.
Yoga Handstand Progressions
If you think you aren’t ready to be kicking up a handstand yet and want to train your body instead, there are various progressions that, if performed for a few weeks, will make the transition relatively easy for you when doing a yoga handstand.
Keeping your hands shoulder-width apart, walk your feet up a wall slowly till you make a right angle. Practice aligning your hips with your shoulders and hold the position for ten seconds. Once you start to feel a burning sensation in your arm muscles, retrace your steps back down the wall carefully. This will help you gain the upper body strength required to hold your weight.
Instead of leaning against a wall, you can take the help of a friend or a trainer. Try kicking up into the air while a friend stands behind you as a ‘stopper’ to ensure your legs do not go backward. Once both feet are in the air, they can even grip your calf muscles while you balance yourself.
Kick onto the Wall
This is one of the most popular yoga handstand progressions and probably the one with the maximum probability of success. For this, you will need a wall and a mat. Again, start in the downward-facing dog position and kick up into your handstand. The only difference here is that this time, you need to allow your feet to rest against the wall if you fail to achieve proper balance.
Common Yoga Handstand Mistakes
The wrong posture or improper technique can often lead to prolonged pain and muscle sprains, be it a yoga handstand or any other asana. Here are some common mistakes that beginners must avoid when practicing a yoga handstand:
- Skipping warm-ups
- Keeping shoulders too tight
- Arching your back
- Being scared of falling over
- When doing a handstand, squeeze your butt throughout the process as it helps keep your back straight and makes freestanding easier.
- Make sure that the edge of your arms is glued to the ears to make a straight line from the floor to your foot.
- Looking down often throws people off balance. Instead, try to look behind you when doing a handstand.
Doing a handstand might seem complicated if you are a beginner, but as you master the progressions and smaller movements, your upper body gradually builds the strength required to hold the pose. Be sure to consult a physician before performing such exercises if you have had a prior injury in the neck and lower back areas. Thanks for reading!