Breaking Down the Pose – Handstand

Have you ever been telling your friend about a yoga class you took and been annoyed when their response was “I just don’t think yoga is a real workout”. Well so have we, and we 100% attribute it to people not fully understanding the small intricate movements that force them to work a lot harder in each pose.

Our pose breakdown series shows a visual of the big cues you should be focusing on, as well as highlighting the benefits and risks of the featured poses. Feel free to share with your skeptical friends to help them advance their own practices.
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Handstand is a difficult pose to learn because it not only requires significant arm and shoulder strength, but it also requires a sneaky amount of core work. If you haven’t worked on handstand before, we recommend starting against a wall.

The foundation of the pose starts with the hands. Make sure they are shoulder width apart and flat on the ground. My teacher always had a great cue: “grip the mat between your thumb and pointer finger as if you are pinching the mat without raising your knuckles”. This movement also helps with firming the outer arm bones in.

Aside from learning or feeling comfortable with being upside down, one of the hardest parts of sticking a handstand is getting your hips and shoulders over your wrists. Most students stop themselves to soon because they feel like they are going to tip over. This is why we recommend working against a wall. This allows you to really feel what its like to have shoulders over wrists and hips over shoulders.

Mind Body Green has a great post, 6 tips to get into handstand that breaks down the movements to get into handstand, it’s worth checking out. You can also try David Kim’s online yoga class that aims to wean you away from the wall and guides you into finding balance in your handstand.

If you are just looking to get upside down you can try Mia Togo’s yoga video “Inversions with ease” which sets up your handstand in a sequential and gradual way so you can still feel grounded and supported.

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