I love handstands. I have loved and practiced them for decades and I never tire of the exhilaration I feel after each one. They help me feel strong and alive, even as I move deeper into my 60s. As a yoga teacher I also know that almost anyone can learn to do at least some version of a handstand, and that many students will be surprised, thrilled and amazed to get up in either a handstand prep or the full pose. Handstands empower us.
Because I teach handstands almost every week in at least one of my classes I am always looking for new ways of making this pose more accessible to my students. I’m always asking myself what alignment tips and various muscular and energetic actions can move my students (and me!) toward more ease, fun and airtime in this amazing pose.
This year I found another physical action that can help us balance in the pose. If you are not yet able to get up into handstand against a wall, then come to class to learn the basics. You can also practice this tip and get your body ready to support you.
The premise behind this practice is that handstand is not just about strength in the arms and wrists as some people imagine. An easeful handstand requires balanced muscular actions throughout the whole body. My students are telling me that doing this exercise, especially right before doing a handstand, awakens what they need to happen in the body to balance off the wall. See what you think.
Begin by lying on the floor on your back. Create the shape of Supta Padangusthasana (SP) with the left leg stretched out along the floor and the right leg up in the air with a strap looped around the center of the arch.
In this version of SP the main actions of the pose happen in the leg on the floor. The top leg can be extended into the strap but have enough ease through the back of the leg that the whole pelvis (especially the lower half) is completely on the floor.
As you focus on the bottom leg, feel it spreading lengthwise and sideways along the floor. Let the leg feel wide and completely glued to the floor. Keeping the leg glued to the floor, create the action in the body that would lift it off the floor and do that action strongly even though the leg is staying on the floor. You’ll immediately feel the whole front of your leg and the left side of your torso up to your ribcage “wake up” with the toning of muscular action. These muscles are the stabilizers that will help you get up into handstand easily and balance once you are up. Relax effort and let the toning go, and then pause and do it again. Repeat on the other side. Be sure as you do this action that you are not flattening or overarching the back; let the front of the body do all the work.
If you look at the photo below I am pressing on the front of Evan’s shin and asking him to push me away. This way I can feel if he is getting the action correctly, and, if you are a yoga teacher, this is a useful assist.
Marcia Miller is teaching a Restorative Master Class on Inversions at Yoga on High February 21st from 9:30a-4p. You can also catch Marcia teacher her favorite handstand variations during her Wednesday evenings Hatha Level 2 & 3 drop in class at 5:45p at Yoga on High.