Handstand

Adho Mukha Vrksasana

June 21, 2016    BY Yoga International

POSE TYPE

Arm Balance, Inversion

POSE CATEGORY

Extension

Setup and Key Actions

To set up, start in a short downward facing dog pose. If you're practicing in front of a wall, hands are about one palm-distance away from the wall to start. Line up your wrist creases parallel to the front of your mat. Spread your fingers evenly apart. Resist your thumbs toward your fingers and your fingers toward your thumbs (like you’re clawing your mat), and ground down through the mounds below your index fingers and thumbs. Step one foot forward, halfway, and float your back leg up as in standing splits. Keep your hands on the floor and lift onto the ball of your standing leg foot. Make sure your shoulders are stacked directly over your wrists. Gaze toward your thumbs.

From this "standing-splits-like" prep, stabilize your core by drawing the back-leg side of your belly toward the front-leg side of your belly (think "narrowing your pelvic points/frontal hip bones," like you're cinching a drawstring). Keeping your core stable like this, you can let your back leg externally rotate a bit as you lift it on an inhale.

The prep

Exhale, bend your standing-leg knee and tap your back toes on the floor. Inhale, straighten your standing leg and lift your back leg up. This is the prep for hopping into handstand: Exhale, bend and tap; inhale, lift. As you work with the prep, be sure to keep your shoulders over your wrists, stay on the ball of your front foot, and keep your back leg straight.  

Handstand hops

From the prep, inhale, lift your back leg; exhale, bend and tap, and on the pause after the exhale, hop up, bending your front knee into your chest, and keeping your back leg straight. Do that a few more times: Inhale, lift; exhale, tap; sustain the exhale, and hop off of your standing-leg foot, bending your front knee into your chest, and keeping your back leg straight.

If you make it up into handstand, actively spread your toes (if you find yourself wavering, you may discover a little toe-spreading makes a big difference!). Hug your forearms toward each other, push the floor away, and extend up through your inner heels. (If you're practicing in front of a wall, see if you can lift both of your heels off the wall together instead of one at a time. Pushing the floor away and reaching up through your inner heels will help you to move both feet off of the wall together.)

Gently gaze toward your hands, or release the crown of your head to point down toward the floor (initially, the latter will be more challenging balance-wise).

As you explore your balance, play with shifting your weight as needed. Once you’re up, if you find that your body is moving too far forward (overshooting), try shifting a bit more weight into the fronts of your hands (bases and pads of the fingers). And if you find that you’re not quite forward enough (like you’re about to move back toward your downdog), try shifting a little more weight into the heels of your hands.

Modifications

Walk your feet up the wall for an "L-shaped" handstand, or stick with the "handstand hops" in lieu of the full pose.

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