You could think of Handstand as an upside-down Mountain Pose. This posture gives an exceptional relief to the back after backbends.
(Pronounced as "ah-doh moo-kah vrick-SHAHS-anna")
The name of this pose comes from three different Sanskrit words: Adho is "Downward," mukha is "facing," and vrksha is "tree." Literally taken as the "downward-facing tree pose," you aim to maintain the strength and stability of a tree while balancing only on your hands.
It is generally best to wait until you feel comfortable holding Dolphin Pose for about one minute before attempting Handstand. The handstand requires some preparatory training of the arms and core muscles to keep your balance.
Place your palms on the floor one foot away from a wall. Spread your fingers wide. Your hands should be the same distance apart as the distance between your shoulders. Straighten your arms and walk your feet back into Adho Mukha Shvanasana, or Downward Dog Pose.
Step one foot a little closer to the wall. This foot will act as your spring to kick up. Take a breath. On your exhalation, push up hard on your springing leg to lift both legs up and raise them up against the wall in front of you. Only your heels should rest on the wall. Your arms stay straight beneath you. Straighten your legs and lengthen them up the ceiling, tucking your tailbone in.
You can practice hopping and kicking your legs up a few times. If you feel strong enough to do the pose but have trouble getting your legs over your head, then try coming into the pose in gymnastics style. You can stand up straight and tall, lifting your arms up high in the air. Then arch your back, look up, and in one fluid motion, you bounce forward as if you would do a flip, putting your hands on the floor one foot in front of the wall. Keep your legs straight after kicking up. Here the momentum of your hands falling down onto the floor will help you kick and launch your legs up over your head on the wall.
Once you are in the Handstand, avoid arching your lower back too much. Pull your front ribs in closer to your spine and push your heels further up the wall.
Stay in the pose for as long as you can. Breathe normally. Eventually, you can increase the duration up to one minute. Take one foot down at a time on your exhalation. Make sure not to kick up with the same leg leading all the time. If you kick up with the right leg leading today, then kick up with the left leg leading tomorrow.
Adho Mukha Vrksasana
If you do not yet have the confidence or strength to do a full Handstand, then you can use a chair to do an easier Half-Handstand. This variation builds up your strength. Brace a chair against the wall. Kneel on the seat of the chair, face away from the wall and put your hands on the floor while keeping your legs on the chair. Your hands need to stay under your shoulders. Now walk your hands forward until only the tops of your feet are on the seat of the chair and your arms are perpendicular to the floor. Hold this position as long as you can, keeping your legs straight, arms straight and abdominal muscles firm. You may also practice lifting one leg off of the chair seat at a time and balancing to get a feeling for balancing on your hands.
In the beginning, you may feel more comfortable letting your head hang straight down. However, it is better to try gradually to raise your head a little to look at the floor between your hands. Do not cramp your neck to make this movement. Instead, push your shoulder blades in and arch your back more to lift the head. You can brace the crown of your head against the wall in front of you if necessary. Then practice moving one heel away from the wall at a time until you can balance with both heels off of the wall.
Once you have developed some confidence in the handstand, try it while putting your hands in different positions on the yoga mat. For example, rotating your shoulders away from each other is easier to learn when you turn your hands on the mat so that your right fingers point to the right side, and your left fingers point to the left. Your wrists face each other. Keep the palms of your hands directly under your shoulders as you kick up into the Handstand. To build strength in your wrists, you can also turn your hands so that your wrists face the supporting wall in front of you and your fingers point toward you. Then kick up to balance on your inverted hands.
To learn how to lengthen the spine upward properly and gain the confidence to balance, ask a partner to stand in front of you as your living "support wall." Put your hands down on the mat in front of their feet and kick up. They will catch your heels in the air. Then your partner can first steady your knees directly above your shoulders, and then they can adjust your heels to support them above your shoulders as well. They can also slightly pull your heels straight up as you tuck your tailbone in and feel how to extend your spine. If you are confident, they can gradually let go and let you balance on your own.
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