Adho Mukha Vrksasana – Handstand

block squeeze
English: Handstand
Sanskrit: Adho Mukha Vrksasana

  • Adho = face
  • Mukha = downward
    Adho Mukha = downward facing
  • Vrksa = tree

Shoulder openers
Core work-out
Inner thigh strengthening
Arm strengthening
Backbending (if doing the falling down to upward wheel)
Step-by-step Instructions:

When just beginning to learn handstand, it is best to learn using a wall and/or a spotter.

Version 1: Single leg kick-up
1. [Beginner: Wall Support] Place your yoga mat against the wall.
2. Come into Downward Facing Dog with your hands about a foot or two away from the wall and shoulder width apart.
3. Inhale look up and step your kicking foot (left or right, whichever feels stronger for kick up) forward about 2 feet away from the front hand.
Ensure your shoulders are directly over your wrists at this point.
4. Gaze at the space slightly above between your palms.
5. Keep the fingers wide open. Push your fingers and the part of the palms under the knuckles (the base of each finger) firmly into the mat.
6. Raise the other leg (top leg) up in the air with the foot flexed keeping the hips square. Keep the top leg active by extending through the heel.
7. Bend the knee of your kicking foot so it stands on the balls of the foot. This action will bring your top leg lower.
8. Practice the Hop.
Keeping your top leg strong, kick with your bottom leg and try to swing your top leg as far up towards the wall as you can.
Breathing: Some find that inhaling during the kick-up works for them. For some, exhaling during kick-up. Experiment to see how your body feels.
TIP: As you hop up, shift your weight forward so your weight is on your hands. This helps to keep the legs light for a gentle kick-up to avoid crashing to the wall.
Repeat until comfortable. You may need to practice the hop several times (or longer!) until you are strong enough to kick up to the wall.
9. As you swing the top leg, your kicking leg will eventually lift up.
As both legs come off the ground, engage your core to help lift your hips over your shoulders.
PUSH your hands firmly on the mat!!!
10. Pushing off the wall.
Once on the wall, slowly take your foot and balance with the other leg.
Option 1: Move both legs to meet at the same time.
Option 2: Adjust the kicking leg so your foot is over the hips and slowly release the other foot off the wall.
11. Squeeze your thigh and the inside of your toes firmly together with a slight internal rotation.
Squeeze your butt firmly but not too hard ^_^. Engage your mula bandha.
12. Hold the handstand for as long as you can.
13. When falling back down, continue to engage your core to ensure a soft landing. You can either come down one leg at a time or both legs at the same time.
14. Move to a quick Downward Facing Dog pause.
15. Next, sit in vajrasana and bring your hands to the floor. Bring the top of your hands together as if in downward prayer to counter the hand press. You can also clench your fist and bring the top of your hands together.
16. Rest in child’s pose.
Version 2: Straight leg kick-up (L)
1. Come into Downward Facing Dog with your hands about a foot or two away from the wall and shoulder width apart.
2. Gaze at the space slightly above between your palms.
3. Keep the fingers wide open. Push your fingers and the part of the palms under the knuckles (the base of each finger) firmly into the mat.
4. Lift your heels and slightly bend both knees so you are on the balls of your feet.
5. Engage and hold the muscles of your leg tighly.
6. Kick your legs up and straighten your legs with your feet flexed point down to the floor.
7. Try to hold the L position as long as you can.
8. If you are able to catch the balance, slowly bring the legs further up for handstand or to the wall.
vlcsnap-2014-10-11-19h12m45s158 vlcsnap-2014-10-11-19h12m40s107
I find that squeezing a yoga block between my thighs help A LOT to keep the handstand longer straight from the kick-up.
Train your inner thighs whenever you find time. 😀 Or jump to the training section below.
If your arms splay to the side, use a strap to keep the arms fixed.
When practicing handstand, it is best to switch legs in order to create balance in your body.
Once you are comfortable using the wall in handstand, you can attempt it in an open space. You may practice off the wall with a spotter. If not, refer to next section on how to fall gracefully. 🙂
Falling down:
When falling down to the back, you may:
– Do a handstand roll, or
– Drop to a upward wheel. When falling down to an upward wheel, make sure to warm up your spine properly beforehand.
However, do not attempt to do a handstand roll if your arms are not strong enough to hold your weight as you bend your arm to reach the back of your head to the mat.
Train the CORE! 🙂
Strengthen the arms.
Half-handstand. This is an upside down L-shaped handstand against the wall.
P1100179P1100180 P1100182 P1100184
Straight leg (L) pike kick up.
Bent knee pike kick-up.
Walk to handstand with chest against the wall.
Back strengthening.
Open and stabilize the hips.

Muscles Activated:

  • Deltoids
  • Latissimus dorsi
  • Serratus anterior
  • Rotator cuff muscles
  • Abdonimal muscles
  • Triceps


  • Decompresses the spine
  • Strengthens the shoulders, arms, and wrists
  • Stretches the belly
  • Improves sense of balance
  • Calms the brain and helps relieve stress and mild depression

Precautions & Contra-indications:

  • Back, shoulder, or neck injury
  • Carpel Tunnel Syndrome
  • High blood pressure
  • Glaucoma
  • Pregnancy
  • Headache
  • Heart condition
  • Menstruation

Counter Pose:

  • Shoulderstand
  • Child’s Pose with hands on the side
  • Child’s Pose with hands behind as in yoga mudrasana

Cher (200hr Yoga TTC 07/14 Weekend)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *