Editor's note: During this year's revitalize event, we caught up with mindbodygreen contributor and founder of Primal Yoga, Liz Arch, and asked her to show us her favorite yoga move. And while it's a complicated one, she gave us a few useful tips to practicing Handstand with legs in Lotus, with some key adjustments to help you maintain your balance. If you're new to inversions, you can check out our full tutorial for learning to stand on your hands right here.
I’m often asked what my favorite yoga pose is and I can say hands down, it’s Handstand. Many people write off handstands as a gymnastics move and insist it's not "real yoga," for me this pose is the ultimate practice in presence. It requires patience, steadfast concentration and attention to the breath.
The path to handstand is a journey in trust. It requires that we trust in our strength and ability to stay calm and centered when our world is literally flipped upside down.
Once you get the hang of a regular handstand, you can begin to experiment with leg variations to challenge your balance, core strength and focus. Never in my wildest dreams did I imagine I would be able to fold my body into full Lotus while upside down — I didn’t even know it was something that could be attempted! But once I saw it performed, it opened up my mind to the idea that all things are possible.
To prep for Lotus Handstand, it's important to first warm up the hips, knees and ankles by practicing poses like Bound Angle pose (Baddha Konasana), Revolved Head-to-Knee pose (Parivrtta Janu Sirsasana), Half Pigeon Pose (Ardha Rajakapotasana), Seated Half-Lotus (Ardha Padmasana) and finally seated Full Lotus (Padmasana).
Next, warm up your shoulders and wrists with preparatory poses like Downward Dog (Adho Mukha Vrksasana), Plank, Side Plank (Vasisthasana), and Dolphin Pose (Makarasana).
And once the body is adequately prepped, you’re ready to go upside down and move into Full Lotus with ease! Use a wall for support until you have built up the confidence to practice in the center of the room.
Start with a regular straight body Handstand. Once you are stable upside down, fold one leg into Half Lotus. If you are tighter in the hips and knees, draw small circles with your ankle as a way to work the leg deeper into position. When the first leg is secured into Half Lotus, begin to fold the second leg into position. Draw small circles with your second ankle to work into Full Lotus. Use your fingertips for balance as you begin to fold at the hips bringing your lotus into a “seated” position upside down. Keep your front ribs hugging in and remember to breathe!
Here are six questions I ask myself when I'm practicing a Lotus Handstand:
1. Are my feet flexed to help protect my knees?
2. Is my gaze focused down between my thumbs?
3. Are my hips stacked over my shoulders?
4. Are my front ribs pulling in?
5. Are my hands active and fingers spread and slightly gripped for balance?
6. Is my breath steady and deep?
Photo Credit: Neal Kreuser for mindbodygreen, graphic design by mbg creative