Adho Mukha Vrksasana or the yoga Handstand requires an open mind and trust so you can overcome your fears, practice discernment, and seek peaceful resolution between gravity (what pulls you down) and ascension (what lifts you up).
Below you will learn five techniques to assist you as you approach this intimidating asana.
This beginner’s technique helps you OVERCOME your doubts about not being strong enough for a handstand. Visualize yourself as buoyant, light as a feather, and carefree, without anything weighing you down.
- Begin in Downward-Facing Dog and jump off both feet into a “tuck” position, keeping your knees bent and close to your chest.
- Visualize a slight Cat Pose to sustain that elusive gravity-free moment without excessively arching your low back.
- Just like a kid jumping into a swimming pool, when you curl up into this shape, you become smaller—making it easier to manage fear so you can gradually straighten your legs above your head.
2. One Momentous Leap
DISCERN the fine line between too much momentum and not quite enough power, fierce yet not forceful, and flexible but not without boundaries. When you strike this balance, you settle into a “groove,” sometimes called the sweet spot, when everything just clicks into place.
This allows you a moment to actually rest and sustain your breath, focus and stability. This variation works great against the wall.
- Begin in Three-Legged Dog.
- Initiate a powerful kick from the extended leg toward your handstand at the top of your mat.
- Practice finding the balance between TOO MUCH kick, which would make you fall over, and NOT ENOUGH “oomph,” which makes it difficult to actually lift high enough to develop the pose.
3. Flip Your Split
Choose to see both sides of a situation, without attaching to either, takes skill and a genuine affinity for peaceful RESOLUTION rather than conflict. In this technique, you practice working counterbalance. Think of Newton’s third law: For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction.
- Begin in Three-Legged Dog.
- Kick your extended leg forward towards the front wall trying to overshoot your handstand, almost towards a backbend.
- The Great Neutralizer, your back leg, lingers behind, towards the back wall, enabling you to maintain a solid center.
- This variation also works well supported by the wall, as long as you give yourself plenty of distance so only your toes reach the wall, enabling you to maintain your "spilt" shape.
4. The Straddle Handy
EXPAND your thinking! Use your peripheral vision for this one. Explore the farthest reaches of your mind, broaden your boundaries, and remain wide open to possibilities! Stack those hips over the shoulders whether you jump or float, keep your focus, and stretch your feet far away from each other.
- Begin in a Wide-Legged Forward Fold.
- Ground your palms underneath your shoulders, keeping your arms straight and your eyes focused between your hands for stability.
- Whether you hop on up or float up, keep your legs strong by extending them outwards rather than attempting to sweep the legs in a circular upward motion.
5. The Tipping Point
TRUST your gut! This requires access to absolute core isolation, mastery of Mula Bandha, and unshakable focus. Stoke the fires with an audible ujjayi breath to burn through the thick residue of fear for the unknown and self-doubt.
Simply silence the voice that says "I CAN'T!” This variation epitomizes releasing deadweight from your body in order to attain liberation.
- Begin in Uttanasana.
- Rest your hands firmly on the floor.
- Rise up on your toes, gradually giving more and more weight to your upper body and seek patience.
- Hold this position, rev your engine, aka: engage your bandhas, and prepare for lift-off.
- Need a little booster? Make it a Block Party! Try standing on a stable block (wobbly side down, please), and repeat the above steps. The added elevation gives you some extra support.
Remember, no single tool works for every yogi. The beauty of a regular practice teaches that variety and modifications do not limit but support an evolving and committed yoga practice.
Do you have any tricks that you use to help you build your confidence in your Handstand? Please share them below, we can all use some help with this one!
Image Credit / Yogi: Judy Rukat