A Beginner’s Guide to Handstand



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I absolutely love the feeling of holding my body up on my own two hands. As a beginner, it’s super empowering to go up in to a handstand. Most of us as children had no fear of going upside down; but as adults, it can be frightening.
 
Once you have the tools and proper alignment and feel strong enough in your arms, shoulders, wrists and core, you won’t be afraid to give handstand a try.
 
The best thing about learning handstand, is it gives us all a moment to turn our perspective upside down and get a great rush of energy. If I’m ever feeling super fatigued or depressed, I just kick my legs up overhead and everything feels a bit brighter!

How to Practice Handstand

To learn handstand, you can start by practicing L stand at the wall. L stand is often harder than handstand itself, because it forces us to use the right muscles and get our legs and core involved as we support ourselves with our shoulders directly over our wrists.

The common mistake I see here is people tend to walk their hands too far forward becoming more of a wheel barrow instead of an upside down L.

Kristin handstand 1-side

Come on to all fours with your heels at the wall, make sure you keep your shoulders directly over your wrists and lift up in to a shortened dog pose. Then bring one leg up at a time so your foot is in line with your hips keeping your knees bent.

When you feel comfortable in position straighten both legs (think strong warrior 3 legs) to bring yourself in to the pose. Press through your feet, lengthen through your sides, engage your abdominals and lift your shoulders up away from your ears.

kristin handstand 3-side

When you feel comfortable in L stand, you can play around with taking one leg off the wall directly straight up to the ceiling. Work on holding L and L with one leg at a time at least 5 to 8 breaths 2 to 3 times until you really have the strength for full handstand.

Next, turn around to face the wall. Place your hands about 5 to 8 inches from the wall and lift up in to a downward facing dog pose. Practice your kicks (see forearm balance post) by hopping one foot up to the butt with the opposite leg extended long and straight.

kristin handstand 6-side

Try 5 hops on each leg. Donkey kicks get the core working and helps us feel light on our feet and bring the weight over our hands. I love these kicks as well because they are super energizing and fire up our metabolism and boost our cardio.

When you feel ready to come in to full handstand, make sure you get your hips forward enough to the wall so you don’t stay hanging back and have no momentum to get your legs above your hands. You really have to imagine you’re going to smash your back in to the wall to get the power and lift your legs up. Don’t be afraid to use some energy!

kristin handstand 8-side

Lift your leg up long and hop with the other foot as if to kick your heel to you butt and your heel should hit the mirror or wall. Once here you can then extend it up to meet the other straight leg that also hit the wall.

Find your balance by slowly taking one foot off the wall and see if the other can meet it. You may be playing around with this balance for a long time and stay at the wall until you really feel ready to take it to the middle of the room. If and when you’re up for the challenge, ask a friend or yoga teacher to spot you and catch your legs so you can feel more at ease to begin.

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Eventually you can try doing handstands on your own in the room, outdoors or wherever you want to kick up your legs and get some energy and excitement in your life and yoga practice.

Kristin McGee
Kristin McGee

Yoga and Pilates Instructor


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