Some yogis have impressive and unwavering handstands, but even more yogis often use a friendly wall to keep from falling in handstand. While there's definitely nothing wrong with respecting your body's limits and using props in your practice, it can be limiting to have to use a wall every time you want to go upside down.
Therefore, after a brief discussion on some important concepts for consideration in handstand, this article invites 9 exercises to prepare you to move your handstand away from the wall so you can take flight anytime and anywhere. Of course, if you’re completely new to the practice, it’s best to build-up your flexibility and strength with a regular practice before you jump to handstand! Why not give the free 30 Day Yoga Challenge a go? You could be working your way into a handstand in no time!
1. Plank Pose
Work up to holding for 2 to 3 minutes continuously by practicing holding 10 seconds at a time with a 5-second break. Repeat this 4 times.
If the wrists hurt, practice forearm/dolphin plank. Also feel free to modify with the shins and knees down.
2. Plank Pose with Leg Lift
Work on holding each leg up for 1 minute continuously by practicing 5 seconds of leg lift with a 5-second break in Plank with the leg down. Repeat 6 times.
To intensify the core work, toe tap the foot out to the side as far as possibly while keeping the body still and strong. Toe tap out to the side 10 times, then switch legs, repeat 3 times.
3. Plank Pose Exhaling Knee to Arm
With one leg lifted (Exercise 2), exhale knee to arm and inhale, extend the leg back out. Repeat knee to arm 5-10 times on each side.
Isolate the movement to the leg and maintain stillness and stability in the body to intensify the core work.
Exercise 4: Tiptoe Walk with Core Lift
From Down Dog, slowly walk the feet to meet the hands while keeping the hips lifted and the arms strong. Practice walking the feet back to Plank with the hips high. From Plank, lift the hips into Down Dog. Repeat this exercise 3-5 times, slowly moving so that one flow may last a whole minute.
For a harder workout, work with the toes on a towel or something that can easily slide to lift the hips and glide the feet to the hands in one slow motion. Draw the belly button towards the spine and up to the heart.
5. Toes on The Wall
The next few exercises use the wall to build enough strength to move away.
To do this exercise, walk the feet up the wall with the front of the body facing the wall. Walk enough away from the wall that the feet can flex and only the toes are on the wall.
Practice lifting one foot off the wall at a time. To overcome the fear of falling, practice falling in this exercise. Bend the arms, tuck the head and roll.
Practice holding for 10 seconds at a time, then roll, repeat 4-6 times.
6. L-Shaped Heart Opener with the Wall
Practice in Down Dog with the heels touching the wall, then gently walk the feet up the wall and walk the hands back towards the wall.
Once the feet can securely plant on the wall, press through the soles to send the hips over the shoulders. The shoulders may be directly over the wrists or the wrists may be slightly further away from the wall to open the heart and release the shoulders down the spine.
Avoid having the arms too close to the wall because that will hinder the legs and back from lengthening. Hold for 3-5 breaths.
7. One-Legged L-Shaped Heart Opener
With the feet on the wall to create an L-shape with the body (Exercise 6), practice lifting one leg at a time. When one leg can be comfortably lifted, practice lifting the heel off the wall and balancing on the toes.
Eventually, practice lifting the toe off the wall for a few moments, then gently relaxing the foot back onto the wall. Hold for 3-5 breaths with each leg.
8. Handstand Kick-Ups
Practice in standing splits to gently lift the heel and toes off the mat, then gently kick up and practice balancing handstand with the legs open in either a stag (seen in the picture) or legs in a split.
Hold in a handstand, then come down before losing control. Practice on both sides.
9. Heels on the Wall, Optional Gaze at the Toes
Practice the handstand kick-ups with the head gently resting on the wall and your shoulders over the fingers.
As the legs kick up, the shoulders will swing like a pendulum and end back over the wrists. Place only the heels on the wall and gently start to lift them off the wall, one at a time.
Feel free to gaze at the toes for a moment to build core strength. Hold for 5-10 breaths.
Exercises Complete: Handstand Time!
After working on strengthening and balancing the arms, core, back, and legs, it is time for handstands in the middle of the room.
Have fun, squeeze the inner thighs and ankles together as you lift through the legs and root down through the palms. Remember: it's normal to fall. Getting back up and giving it another shot is what makes you a yogi extraordinaire!
Image credit: Yogo Girls