Handstand - Adho Mukha Vrksasana

How to Do a Yoga Handstand
Handstand - Adho Mukha Vrksasana. Ann Pizer

Type of pose: Inversion, Arm Balance

Benefits: Strengthens the arms and core, improves balance.

Note: Wondering whether to invert while menstruating?

There are a number of ways to work on getting into a handstand, both at the wall and in the center of a the room. Using the wall provides a sense of security that is necessary for a lot of people at first because fear of falling is a big obstacle that has to be overcome before progress can be made.

If you never get away from the wall, it's actually not such a big deal. It's just like using a prop in any other pose. You get the benefits of the inversion either way. If you do start working toward holding the pose in the center of the room, there are a few other methods of kicking up that you may want to consider trying.

Handstand itself has become a kind of gold standard yoga pose. But it's important to remember that whether or not your handstand looks amazing on Instagram really doesn't matter. Being able to pop a handstand in front of a palm tree or the Eiffel Tower doesn't make or break your yoga practice.

Like all poses that are difficult, it's fun to accomplish something that you doubted your ability to do. But it's not great to get fixated on bagging one pose or another, as if checking this off your list means something in the larger context. If we cultivate the attitude of a yoga student on the path to enlightenment, all poses are approached the same.

One is not better than other. The easy ones are given just as much attention as the hard ones. 

Instructions:

1. Come into downward facing dog with your hands about a 6 inches away from the wall.

2. Walk your feet in closer to your hands, bringing the shoulders over your wrists.

3. Bend one knee and lift the other foot off the floor.

Take a few hops here, jumping off from the bent leg and lifting the straight leg toward vertical.  

4. On about the third hop, try bringing both heels to the wall over your head. Keep your head down between your upper arms. 

5. Practice taking the heels off the wall and balancing. You will need to strongly engage your legs and reach up through your heels. You can also start to work on bringing your gaze to the floor.

6. Bring one leg down at a time and rest before trying to kick up with the opposite leg for balance.

Variations and Tips:

A two legged jump into the pose works better for some people. 

1. After step 2, above, bend both knees. Jump lightly, bringing your butt to the wall. Straighten both legs. To prepare for this entry, try some donkey kicks with both legs. Jump up and try to tap your butt with your heels. 

Work on taking the pose away from the wall.

1. Begin in position for a standing split. Flatten your palms to the floor and bend your standing leg. Hop lightly to bring both legs up.

Sometimes it helps to bend your lifted leg as you jump. It's ok if the first leg up goes past vertical, either straight or bent. This can help you get your balance. Once you are balanced on your hands, work on bringing both legs straight up. 

2. Begin in a prasarita padattanasana. Straighten your arms in your forward bend. Shift your weight forward into your hands. Try lifting the legs out to the sides and up simultaneously with control. Your shoulders may come past your wrist as you lift up. That's ok but realign them when you are in the pose. 

3. Handstand is so much about a strong core. Work on your core strength if this pose seems out of reach. 

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