While nailing a specific pose isn't the primary goal of yoga, as a yogi I can say it feels pretty damn good when that pose you've been working toward for months—sometimes years—finally comes together. For many yogis, that pose is handstand. Being able to do handstand typically means you've mastered three huge elements of yoga: strength, flexibility, and balance.
The benefits of regular handstands don't end with how much fun they are. They also increase circulation, improve mood, and help with bone health. So you better believe yogis love a good inversion.
Recently, handstands have started creeping into the fitness world as well. Suddenly, some of my HIIT classes incorporate brief handstand attempts, and handstands are popping up all over some of the more hard-core fitness Instagram accounts I follow, like s10 training and CrossFit's official account. What gives? Let's take a closer look.
Why the fitness world is going crazy for handstands.
"Handstands are some of the best core exercises you can do and solidify great shoulder stability," Rebecca Kennedy, trainer and founder of the active recovery class ACCESS, explained when I asked her why so many fitness instructors and trainers have started teaching their students how to do handstands. "They incorporate both strength and balance into one seamless, (hopefully) graceful movement."
Interestingly enough, she believes the handstand phenomenon started with a workout that has the opposite vibe of yoga: CrossFit. "CrossFit definitely helped drive this, as the sport itself blends gymnastics into their regimen," Rebecca adds. "There definitely is a novelty to learning this movement, but I honestly think it's a skill that shows progression so you're able to stay interested and invested without plateauing."
"Handstands are energizing and uplifting," he told me. "They have a great ability to focus the mind on the present moment. They're great for when you're feeling distracted. Handstands can also help with your posture when done with good technique. When you're standing evenly on both feet, stacking your bones and utilizing your postural muscles in an optimal way—the same feeling can be found in handstand. And that feeling of the body's midline translates to a better understanding of one's center of gravity, which lends itself to a feeling of clarity in all kinds of movement and exercise, not just yoga."
How to get started.
Of course, if handstands were easy, everyone would do them. But they take a lot of practice, and the idea of inverting evokes fear in a lot of people. But that's not a bad thing. "Many people are afraid of being upside down. Fear of inversion is normal," Christopher says. "So in working on them, they can have an extremely empowering effect. Plus, they're a lot of fun!"
While you don't want to handstand against the wall forever, Rebecca says using the wall in early inversion stages is a good idea. "When you hit your first headstand and wall stand and eventually free stand—there are so many ways to progress this and continuously challenge yourself. Handstands are a foundational movement from gymnastics. Once you learn a handstand you can do so many more things!"
Speaking of inversions that aren't handstands, if you want to learn how to do a headstand without hurting yourself, check out this four-step video featuring SKY TING's Chloe Kernaghan. Have fun!