For many, Handstands represent being free from fears and standing in your own strength. There’s a lot of very good reasons for why that is…. But how do we get there!?!
It can feel like we are stuck in a rut trying to fling our bodies in the air during each practice and then breeding frustration when it doesn’t happen or we get injured. One way to get there is with a regular yoga practice. When you practice consistently, you build mobility and strength, so you can hold your body upside down for longer. This free 30 Day Yoga Challenge is a great way to work up to doing a handstand. With a new session every day, you’ll test your limits!
While the emotional journey of finding your Handstand is different for everyone, physically there are a few steps you can take to help you progress into Handstand!
Step One: Breath of Fire
I know, breath work doesn’t seem like a step towards standing on your hands! But controlling your breath enhances your ability to control your core, making it essential. How do you quit flinging your body up? Core and breath control.
- From seated take a long inhale to prepare.
- Take a sharp exhale through your nose or pursed lips by contracting your belly in quickly.
- It should sound like you are fiercely, and quickly, blowing out one candle.
- Repeat this ten times. Inhales will happen naturally when your belly muscles release their contraction each time.
Step Two: Plank Holds
Holding plank for significant amounts of time will enable you to grow the kind of strength that holding a Handstand requires. Confidence is born in trust. To feel confident upside down you must trust your strength. If you hold Plank for a little bit longer each time you will make solid progress.
When in Plank see if you can feel your ribs curving in towards your navel and pressing your navel up towards your spine, this encourage the core activity described in the previous, and next steps.
Step Three: L Holds
Sit on the floor with your feet flat up against the wall, then place your hands where your hips were and turn around so you can climb your feet up the wall. It can feel a little scary, but getting past that fear is another vital part of turning upside down. So hang out here until it feels familiar.
You could also play a little by pressing from flat feet on the wall onto your tippy toes and contracting your belly in the same way you did for Breath of Fire, but this time holding the belly in similar to how you did in the Plank holds. This core work is called “Uddiyana Bandha.”
Step Four: L Switches
Now you can play with catching air! Set up your L hold one inch further away from the wall. Once you’re up lift one, very engaged, leg up to the sky with pointed toes. Hold for a few breaths then try the other side. Eventually add in a few more breaths per side to hold for longer and practice holding that Uddiyana Bandha action with your core.
Later you could try switching the legs simultaneously and you’ll find that core control practice paying off dramatically. Keep your legs thoroughly engaged as you switch, and each time you switch do it on an exhale that pulls your stomach in just like in Breath of Fire.
Step Five: Hop Up & Hold Tucks
Now that your confidence is elevated in the hold itself you can work on coming up without clambering up the wall.
Set up for a Handstand at the wall facing into the room. As you kick one engaged leg up to the wall push into your hands and shoulders to ground down. When you inevitably hop the standing leg up, pull that knee into your belly. It may take a few jumps but as soon as your knee-belly connection catches you will have control to stay up.
Having trouble? Put a block between the standing knee and your belly and try not to drop the block as you kick up. Also press up into the toes of the leg that is leaning against the wall.
Stay there squeezing your knee to your belly, or block, for 5 breaths before coming down and switching sides.
When this feels strong see what it would be like to do 2 knees in at once (no block) and land your butt against the wall. Practice using your Uddiyana Bandha core action to peel off the wall and hover for a time.
When all that is comfortable for you, squeeze your thighs and ankles together to straighten the legs up to the sky.
Take this step away from the wall at any time to see where you’re at!
Take your time and use a lot of core strengthening activities every time you practice. It may not happen right away, but you’ll get there when you’re ready.
Got a tip that has worked really well for you so far? Please share!