Looking to master handstand? These poses will get you there.
In yoga, the handstand is one of the most iconic poses, yet one of the most difficult to master. The pose takes an unrivaled amount of body stability and awareness in order to do it safely and effectively. You have to essentially learn how to lift the weight of your whole body up on your hands in order to master the handstand.
The most important step toward a successful handstand is building strength in your core, shoulders, and wrists. Incorporating the yoga poses below into your daily routine will help you gain that strength and get you ready to nail your handstand in no time!
By Leah Sugerman
Standing Forward Fold
Begin standing with your feet about hip distance apart. Soften your knees and hinge from the hips as you fold over your legs and maintain a long spine. Feel free to bend your knees as deeply as needed. Allow your head and torso to become heavy and hang toward the floor. If your legs are straight, engage your quadriceps to allow a deeper stretch in your hamstrings. Depending on your flexibility, feel free to let the fingers hang toward the floor, grab hands and elbows, or hug the calves. Pause here for 20-30 seconds while you breathe deeply into the stretch.
Begin seated on your mat with your knees bent and your feet flat on the floor. Place your hands behind your knees and firmly press your sit bones into the mat. This action will help lift your chest and lengthen your spine toward the ceiling. Soften your shoulders away from your ears. To activate your core, bring your navel toward your spine. As you inhale, slightly leaning back, lift your feet off the floor and bring your shins parallel to the mat. Balance on your sit bones and activate your inner thighs (keep your legs hip distance apart). If it feels available to you, release your hands and extend your arms forward to the outside of your knees (without holding on). For more intensity, straighten your legs and continue to maintain a slow, steady breath and an elongated spine. Hold your variation of Boat Pose for 10-15 breaths, and then slowly release your feet to the mat.
Find a comfortable seat and extend your arms forward so they are in line with your shoulders. Flex your wrists and activate your hands (like you’re pushing against a wall with your hands). While keeping your arms active, draw the head of your humerus bones (upper arm bones) back into the shoulder sockets. Without moving, energetically hug your arms into the midline to activate them (but keep your arms in line with your shoulders). Very subtly broaden your chest (imagine that your collarbones are smiling). Pause here and invite your body to develop muscle memory to help you remember this same shoulder integration when you are upside down. Feel free to use a yoga block between your hands or practice this in Plank Pose to continue building body awareness. Practice as often and as long as desired.
Begin in Table Top Pose. Set the foundation in your hands by placing them shoulder-width apart, spread your fingers wide and grip the mat with your fingertips. Press firmly into all four corners of your palms and do not let the mound beneath your index finger lift off the mat. Imagine your hand is a suction cup and only allow the center of your palm to lift. Press the floor away from you as you lift your knees and walk your feet back to make a straight line with your body like a plank of wood. Stretch the heels back as if you’re pressing into a wall behind you. Activate your hamstrings to lift your legs and activate your core to lift your hips. Lengthen from head to toe and engage your whole body. Maintain your breath and practice proper shoulder integration. Hold for 30 seconds and then slowly release back to Table Top Pose.
Begin seated with your legs extended and your feet flat on the wall, then place a yoga block next to your hips as a place holder. Place your hands where your block is and flip over, keeping your feet on the wall. Slowly walk your feet up the wall until your hips are in a 90 degree angle. Your shoulders and hips should be stacked directly over your hands. Press your feet firmly against the wall and notice the weight in your arms, shoulders and wrists (this is how your Handstand will feel). If you want to take it a step further, extend one leg toward the ceiling. Be sure you actively press the floor away with your hands, maintain core engagement and strong shoulder integration. Keep breathing and stay for 15-30 seconds in either variation, then slowly walk your feet down the wall.
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All images courtesy of Leah Sugerman / YogiApproved.com.