Conquering Handstand!

I think I must be the only person who does yoga not for the inversions. In fact, inversions scare me a lot. One of the things I like about Yoga is the feeling of being grounded and the standing and seated asanas are perfect for me. Inversions, to me, felt like circus acts to me. They seemed like poses to impress or wow.
Unluckily for me, inversions were taught during YTT. Week after week, we tried inversions – headstand, pincha and eventually handstand. The first time we were all told to go to the wall and jump into handstand, it was horrifying for me. I simply couldn’t bring myself to kick up, even though the wall is just right in front of me. I didn’t think I was strong enough. I was scared of falling. I hated it.
As the weeks progressed, I slowly built strength and learnt how to ease myself into inversions. Here, I am going to break down the inversion everyone wants to do – Handstand (Adho Mukha Vrksasana).
Adh Mukha Vrksasana is both an inversion and an arm balance. As we spend our entire lives on our both feet, the hip joints are structured for weight-bearing in our daily activities such as walking, standing. The shoulders on the other hand are highly mobile and designed for interacting with the environment through our hands. Practicing arm balances such as handstand reverses this design by turning the mobile shoulder joint into the joint that needs to be stabilized for weight bearing.
Here are a few pointers to help you into performing a handstand

  1. Warm up the wrist by doing a few wrist stretches
  2. Warm up the shoulder by doing some basic shoulder stretches.
  3. Build strength into the shoulder girdle by working on foundational poses such as Downward facing dog and Chaturanga. #chaturangaeveryday
  4. Build core strength and the Hollow body position by working on L-shape planks against the wall. Make sure that the back is round and the core is engaged and sucked in.
  5. From the L-shape plank, walk towards the wall and get as vertical as possible. This will be your first taste of how a handstand would feel like.
  6. If you feel comfortable, progress to jump into handstand from Downward facing dog position with the back facing the wall. Over time, as you become more confident, you can slowly move further away from the wall and find your balance in mid-air!

Other than the obvious benefit of strengthening the body needed for handstand, it is essentially an exercise of calming the mind and having the belief. Calming the mind is probably the hardest thing for me. How am I supposed to be calm when all I’m feeling inverted is that I am going to fall?! Most references online for inversions fail to mention that the balance point is the point where you feel like you are about to fall or tip over. When you are there, you have to stay calm and not panicked and try to hold the pose at that precarious state of balance. Whenever you need to bail out, come down from the side in a semi-somersault.
Hope everyone enjoys handstanding!
Michelle Ng
200hr weekend Jan’15

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