Yoga Handstand, Adho Mukha Vrksasana or Downward Facing Tree Pose (Adho – downward, Mukha – face, Vrksa – tree), is one of the more challenging-looking arm balances. It requires strength, stability, and daringness to root through the hands to support the body.
Yoga Handstand is worth the challenge and daringness to fall while learning to fly because of all the amazing health benefits!
How-To Do It
There are a variety of ways to get into handstand including using a wall for security or practicing at the center of the room to avoid kicking or falling onto something.
One method is starting in Downward Facing Dog (Adho Mukha Svanasana) about six inches away from the wall. Walk the feet closer to the hands, shoulders over the wrists in alignment with the middle fingers pointing forward, palms spread out with weight evenly distributed throughout the fingers.
Lift one leg and bend the other knee (if needed) and hop/jump off the supported bent leg. Squeeze the heels, thighs, and shoulder blades together as the legs rest on the wall. Lengthen through the arms for strength, if needed use a strap looped over the upper arms (above the elbows) to help straighten the elbows.
Yogi Tip: In time, hoping from Downward Facing Dog with both legs connected and slowly decreasing the bend in the knees challenges the body to utilize more muscle strength rather than leg momentum.
Main Muscles Utilized
Practically your entire body is active and engaged when in handstand, but here's a quick list of the muscles activated when practicing this pose:
Gluteus maximus, rectus abdominis, psoas major, spinal extensors, triceps brachii, pronators, latissimus dorsi, trapezius, deltoids, spinal extensors, external oblique, internal oblique, and flexor carpi radialis.
Focusing on the Breath
It is often difficult to breathe in handstand because deep breaths disrupt the balance and stability of the pose. Especially for yogis learning handstand for the first time, it is often instinctual to hold the breath.
Efficient breaths integrated in to the pose that do not disrupt the delicate balance and stabilize the movement of the spine allow the practitioner to hold the pose for longer periods of time.
It is important to stretch the wrists throughout inversion practice. Practicing falling, tucking the head, and rolling helps the body learn a safe response to falling.
This pose should be carefully considered and avoided when pregnant, there is an existing shoulder, back, or neck injury, heart problems, headaches, or high blood pressure.
Physical: Rooting the hands into the mat challenges the body’s equilibrium and reverses the effects of gravity (e.g. compression and shortening of the spine). It also increases blood flow to the head, and activates the neck.
Additionally, the reversed flow of blood in the legs and visceral regions aids in tissue regeneration. The weight of the abdominal organs on the diaphragm promotes a deeper exhalation which increases the amount of carbon dioxide that is removed from the lungs. Yoga Handstand also stretches the abdomen and strengthens the shoulders, arms, and wrists.
Mental: This yoga pose promotes increased and reversed blood flow which energizes the mind and shifts the internal perspective. It builds confidence and increases the capacity to focus and attune to the body and mind.
Increased blood flow in Yoga Handstand is also linked to stress release and reduced depression. Rooting through the hands grounds the body and mind, and efficient breathing decreases worry and anxiety. So not only does it renew the body, it also re-centers the mind.
Spiritual: Energy flows and is given from the hands. Yoga Handstands root energy and ground through the hands to build confidence and connection as well as brighten the spirit.
Handstands also require the chest to open while inverted and sends energy from the root chakra to the crown chakra. Specifically, this pose is associated with the sahasrara/crown chakra which affects mental clarity and awareness.
Believe it or not, practicing yoga handstands can help you connect to your 'higher' self, to every being on the planet, and to the divine energy of the universe.
Any tips for yoga handstand or other benefits you have found, feel free to share them with the community below!