Instructor: Sarah N.
Sarah has completed an intensive yoga teacher training program in Pune, India at the BKS Iyengar Yoga Institute. She has been inspired to continue practicing and teaching yoga for life.

Yoga Handstand: Step-by-Step Instructions


You could think of Handstand as an upside-down Mountain Pose. This posture gives an exceptional relief to the back after backbends.

Step by Step Pose Information Benefits Variations Partnering

Adho Mukha Vrksasana

(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.

How to do a Yoga Handstand

Step One

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 Two

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.

Step Three

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.

Step Four

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.

Step Five

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.

Beginner's Tip:

You will feel more support in this posture when you train your arms to remain perfectly straight underneath you. Do this by forming a loop with your yoga belt that you put around your arms just above your elbows. The belt should be about one hand's length below your shoulders. Adjust the loop so that it is tight enough to keep your arms from moving out from underneath your shoulders. Then as you do Handstand, do not let your arms push too tightly against the resistance of the belt.

Handstand Pose Information

Sanskrit Name:

Adho Mukha Vrksasana

Pose Level:

Level 2

Contraindications and Cautions:

  • Recent back, shoulder or neck injuries.
  • Irregular blood pressure or heart conditions.
  • Do not practice during menstruation.
  • For pregnancy: Do not practice without seeking the advice of an experienced yoga teacher first. They must consider your personal medical history and yoga experience before recommending whether or not you practice this posture.

Modifications and Props:

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.

Deepen the Pose:

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.

Benefits:

  • Builds strength in your shoulders, arms and wrists
  • Expands the chest and improves posture
  • Relieves pain in the lower back after backbends
  • Promotes balance of the nervous system and healthy blood circulation throughout the body

Handstand Variations

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.

Handstand Partnering

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.

Next Pose:

Peacock Pose

9 styles | 152 poses

Beginner Yoga Poses

Bharadvaja's Twist Pose
Big Toe Pose
Boat Pose
Bound Angle Pose
Bow Pose
Bridge Pose
Camel Pose
Cat Pose
Chair Pose
Child's Pose
Cobra Pose
Corpse Pose
Cow Pose
Cow Face Pose
Crow Pose
Dolphin Plank Pose
Downward Dog Pose
Eagle Pose
Eight Angle Pose
Extended Hand to Big Toe Pose
Extended Puppy Pose
Extended Side Angle Pose
Firefly Pose
Fish Pose
Garland Pose
Half Frog Pose
Half Lord of the Fishes Pose
Half Moon Pose
Yoga Handstand
Happy Baby Pose
Head To Knee Pose
High Lunge Pose
Legs Up The Wall Pose
Locust Pose
Lotus Pose
Shoulder Pressing Pose
Low Lunge Pose
Monkey Pose
Mountain Pose
Noose Pose
Plank Pose
Plow Pose
Sage Koundinya I Pose
Sage Marichi's Pose
Reclining Bound Angle Pose
Reclining Hand-to-Big-Toe Pose
Revolved Triangle Pose
Revolved Head to Knee Pose
Reclining Hero Pose
Scale Pose
Side Reclining Leg Lift Pose
Peacock Pose
Pyramid Pose
Crescent Lunge Pose
Heron Pose
Hero Pose
Feathered Peacock Pose
Staff Pose
Seated Forward Bend Pose
Four Limbed Staff Pose
Revolved Side Angle Pose
Wild Thing Pose
Side Crow Pose
Side Plank Pose
Sphinx Pose
Supported Headstand (Sirsasana)
Tree Pose
Standing Split
Supported Shoulderstand
Standing Half Forward Bend
Triangle Pose
Upward Plank Pose
Upward Facing Two Foot Staff Pose
Wheel Pose
Upward Salute Pose
Upward Facing Dog Pose
Warrior I Pose
Warrior II Pose
Warrior III Pose
Wide-Angle Seated Forward Bend
Easy Pose
Gate Pose
Wide Legged Forward Fold
Dancer Pose
One-Legged King Pigeon Pose
One-Legged King Pigeon Pose II
Marichi's Pose
Fire Log Pose
Standing Forward Bend
Pose Dedicated to the Sage Koundinya II

Next Courses

41 Yoga Instructors online
Ashburn, VA

26 Yoga Classes found near you!

The best way to learn yoga is to take lessons from a professional teacher. Want to see the yoga classes near you?