When I first started yoga, I was in awe of the magical power of handstands. I never actually thought I'd be able to do them myself. After a year of practice, I started to try, and 13 years later I'm still working on getting stronger and going deeper into handstands.
It can be daunting for the beginner to think about balancing upside down on only the strength of the arms and the core. I wish someone had taken the time to break down the alignment, technique, and basic strength that are required to do stable handstands. But I learned most of my technique through trial, error, and a lot of falling over.
I'm thankful for each tumble because it taught me how to get back up and try again. Hopefully you'll be able to learn the technique much faster than I did with the help of some basic tools!
Start off learning how to jump into handstand. Only when this is firmly established should you worry about lifting up and getting stronger.
Break the movement down into three distinct segments.
1. Protract your shoulders while engaging the deltoids, latissimus dorsi, serratus anterior and all the muscles of the rotator cuff.
Keep the fingers in a neutral position, allowing weight to be distributed through your palms towards the knuckles of your index fingers and middle fingers with a slight activation of your fingertips.
2. Firm the pelvic floor and the abdominal muscles to create a stable core.
Connect your elves into the pelvic floor by engaging the quadriceps and drawing the heads of your femurs into their sockets. Next shift your weight forward. Start off by moving your shoulders over the palms and then allowing your hips to move over the stable foundation of your arms and core.
3. Relax and allow the movement to happen as you gently jump into the alignment.
Do not overpower the jump, instead use only the minimal amount of force necessary to transfer the weight forward over your arms. Balance is a state of mind that is expressed physical only, never lose your balanced calm center while attempting a posture, especially a challenge one like handstand.
If you can balance in a tucked half handstand position after jumping up with both legs at the same time you'll have more control when you straight your legs for the full posture. If you try to straighten your legs before you feel the balance you will almost always fall forward or backward. If you are kicking up with one leg at a time, the same principle applies.
Feel the balance before you attempt to bring your legs together. The video below shows you how to go step by step through these movements and build the strength for an easy jump into handstand.
While all these physical cues are useful, the most important part of the journey into handstand is the inner work. Let this posture be a mirror that helps you discover your inner strength. Do not let your ego suffer when you fail. Instead be humble, put in the work and grow stronger every day.
Celebrate the small moments when you feel strong and find the balance but remember that yoga is an eternal journey and that you can always be stronger.