Holding an unsupported handstand away from the wall is a true test of strength, balance and stamina. It's something I personally struggled with for many years. The biggest obstacle that I faced was my own effort and tension around the posture.
But handstands of all kinds inspired me right from the beginning. It seemed magical to balance on your arms in any position, let alone with your feet on your head. Now that handstands are part of my daily practice, I know it takes discipline and dedication to integrate this into your discipline.
Strength is an expression of a calm and balanced mind. If you feel yourself sacrificing that centered stability in an effort to achieve a posture you know you’re pushing too hard. Relax, remain calm, focus on your breath and allow the posture to take its own time.
One of the best ways to practice handstands is to learn how to balance in the half handstand, Ardha Vrksasana. This tucked position will teach you how to maintain strength in your shoulder girdle while learning how to control the balance with the center of your pelvic floor. If you start off trying to be completely straight in the handstand from the beginning, you run the risk of sacrificing foundational alignment and strength in the effort to get the legs up high.
Instead, start humbly and build up the foundation in the tuck handstand. When working on the tuck handstand, inhale as you jump both feet slightly up and forward. Firm the foundation of your shoulder girdle by engaging all the muscles of the rotator cuff, latissimus dorsi and your deltoids. Keep the elbows straight and grip the floor lightly with your fingertips. Engage your lower abdominal muscles and the pelvic floor. Keep all of this engaged while you move into the posture.
Find your center of gravity deep within the pelvis and send your hips forward over the foundation. Stack your hips along the centerline of your body so that the hips, the shoulders and the hands find the vertical line. Do not arch your back; instead, keep a slight activation of the front body to build inner strength. Gaze between your fingers, not too far forward and not too backward.
Holding the tucked, half handstand for a long time is how I learned how to balance. It’s a slow and steady method that builds mental and physical strength. Once you find the balance in Ardha Vrksasana for at least five steady seconds of deep breathing, then you're ready to slowly straighten your legs for a full handstand. Practicing in the tucked position also makes it less likely that you will fall over and that if you do fall over you will most likely land in a safe position.
If you spend the time building the fundamental strength and stability in this humble tucked handstand you will be halfway to heaven. But if you strive right for the goal of handstand you might kick your legs up too quickly and sacrifice the healthy alignment and strength that is the essence of the practice.