The secret to handstand—and any other balance on your hands or arms—is actually core strength. The limiting factor is almost never in your arms. (But if you feel like you want stronger arms, check out these yoga poses to help build your strength.) Plank is the best pose to work both arm and core strength all at once. Start on hands and knees. Step feet back so they are hip-width apart, keeping toes tucked and shoulders and wrists in line. Tuck chin slightly, keeping spine in line with body. Engage navel to spine and energetically reach back through heels while pushing through crown of head. Make sure shoulder blades are equally engaged down the back. Do not lock elbows. Breathe here for 30 seconds, then 40 seconds, then 50, then 1 minute.
Low Boat Pose
Low boat pose is a great way to integrate the core in the same way required for a handstand. Come to a regular boat pose. Lower middle back toward the ground, pulling belly button to spine and keeping head and shoulders lifted off the ground. Lower legs—keeping them together—until feet are about 6 inches from the ground. Engage abdominal muscles and quadriceps, and breathe here for 5-10 deep breaths.
Lying Down Broken Stick
This pose is really just a handstand on your back. From low boat, reach arms overhead while reaching one leg straight up (so legs are at a 90-degree angle). Internally rotate thighs toward one another and reach long through toes. Flex through palms as if you are in a handstand and breathe here for 5-20 deep breaths. Repeat with the other leg.
Warrior three is a split leg or broken stick handstand on your foot. Begin in a standing position, then fold forward, walk hands underneath shoulders, and place them on the floor or blocks. Keeping knees soft, shift weight into left foot and lift right leg behind you. Reach through right heel and internally rotate right thigh down so toes point toward the ground. When you feel steady, lift arms and reach them forward on either side of the head to frame your face. Breathe here for 5-10 deep breaths and then repeat on the other side.
Standing split helps loosen up your hamstrings to allow for easier entry into a handstand. Begin in a standing forward bend with both hands on the ground. Transfer weight into left foot; lift right leg high. Point or floint toes towards the ceiling, and square hips as much as possible. Walk hands back in line with toes (on the floor or on blocks or as close to feet as feels comfortable) and drop head. Breathe here for 5-10 deep breaths and then repeat on the other side. (If you have extra tight hamstrings, be sure to check out these yoga poses to help loosen them up.)
L Handstand at Wall
Measure a leg’s distance away from the wall (or lamp post!) to determine where to put hands on the ground. Face away from the wall on all fours. Place hands shoulder width apart on the ground where you measured your leg distance. Walk feet up the wall until your body forms an “L” position, letting your head fall toward the ground. Try to line up shoulders and wrists as best as you can; hips will move beyond them. Stay here for 5-10 deep breaths.
From a forward fold with fingertips on the ground, soften through knees and transfer weight into right leg, tipping weight forward so left leg extends back behind you. Press palms firmly on the ground under shoulders and straighten arms. Keep left leg lifted and rock forward and back, just starting to get hips over shoulders. Start to take small hops on right leg. When you hop up, lift left leg high so hips are over shoulders and keep right leg dangling down so legs are in an “L” shape. Keep breathing though the entire movement, inhaling as you rock or lightly hop up, and exhaling as you release. (Be sure to keep super soft knees so that when you land you aren’t putting stress on your joints.) Do 5 rocks on each side.
Handstand with Split Legs
From a forward fold, press palms firmly into the ground, about a foot and a half in front of feet, shoulder distance apart. Lift left leg toward the ceiling, coming high onto the ball of right foot. Using left leg to lift you, transfer weight onto hands or take little hops off right foot until you are upside down or against the wall, keeping legs split. Engage shoulder blades down and together on your back, and press into fingertips for extra energy. (Tip: Split-legged handstand is usually a bit easier than one with both legs straight. Think of your legs as the pole that the person on a tightrope holds: They help balance you!) Stay here for 5 deep breaths—or work your way up to that—and then repeat on the other side.
Once you feel comfortable in a split leg handstand, straighten legs, internally rotate thighs towards one another, and lift legs to meet one another in the air. Point or floint toes in full handstand position—keeping energy in your toes will help you stay balanced. Try to breathe here for at least 3 deep breaths.
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