When I first started practicing AshtangaYoga I was excited to try all the inversions and handstand I could squeeze into my daily practice. I wasn’t particularly good at any inversions but I loved trying them.
One of the first handstands that many students ask me about is Vrschikasana or Scorpion Handstand. People ask me how to do this on YouTube, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, in person, over email and in class. SO Here are some tips that will help you master this challenging handstand over many years of practice.
Integrate daily strength building movements into your practice and incorporate handstands every day. Do not just do them when you feel good or have extra energy. Instead find a way to work the basics of strength as part of your daily practice. Anyone can try something once off for fun in the afternoon, but when you do it every day as part of your yoga ritual, the postures take on a whole new level of integration and meaning.
On a practical level you will need two key postures to be stable and consistent in your practice before you start trying Vrschikasana. First when you have a solid handstand that you can hold in balance for at least ten seconds, you know that you will have the fundamental tools to begin trying Vrschikasana on your own - away from the wall.
The 10-second handstand hold tests your strength of both body and mind. If you start working on Scorpion before you get stable in a straight handstand, you might miss out on building some of the fundamental strength that you need to support long-term practice.
The second thing you need to have consistently integrated into your practice is a pretty deep backbend. If you can see your heels in backbend then you can definitely touch your toes to your head in handstand. But even if you can’t go that deeply, if you can stand up from Urdhva Dhanurasana with calm control, then you can be sure that you have a deep enough backbend to try Vrschikasana.
2. Patience And Humility
Never expect to get anywhere in a big hurry. Each posture takes its time and if you rush or push too hard, you risk getting injured. In fact, if you expect to get the posture in just a few tries, it is a big expression of your ego. Whenever you expect something to happen for you quickly and demand that your journey unfold in a particular way, you are trying to control the natural process of evolution.
In yoga, it is important to note that the active practice of non-attachment to the fruits of your labor is an integral part of the traditional philosophy. In other words you do your work every day but you understand that what you achieve flows to you through grace and receptivity. That way, when you finally master Vrschikasana or any posture, you remain humble and open-hearted.
On a practical level, patience is probably the most important tool that you will use in this handstand. If you rush this posture and try to squeeze your toes towards your head, the hamstrings will cramp and force you to come out of the posture. Instead of muscling your way into the posture with brute force, the only way to really master Vrschikasana is to relax, let it take the time it takes and surrender. Do the inner work of balance to maintain your handstand and the flexibility work of backbends to create length and elongation through your whole body.
Yoga is a devotional practice and connects you with your deepest self. Give thanks for what you practice, why you practice, and for your teachers in the practice. Be grateful for the postures that are the most challenging because they are your biggest opportunity for learning. Never use the postures for self-denigration or judgement.
Watch this video for a step by step guide to a solid handstand, a deep backbend, and the integration of the two in Vrschikasana.