Head-over-heels positions like the handstand let you see things from a completely different perspective, but require balance, strength and a bit of courage. “The handstand is an effective asana to prove to yourself how capable you are,” says yoga teacher Hie Kim, who has been teaching handstand classes for 9 years.
But it can seem quite impossible to learn the handstand – especially if you practice alone and don’t know how to start. In his workshop at the Meridian Spa Hamburg-Barmbek, the yoga teacher from Frankfurt explained the correct handstand technique and gave us the best tips on how to bring your heart over your head and find your balance upside down:
- What’s the point of the handstand?
- Which muscles are trained in a handstand?
- Manual for handstand: The best preliminary exercises
- How do I manage to keep my balance?
- Can I practice the handstand on the wall?
- How quickly can you learn a handstand?
- How does the handstand on one hand work?
7 reasons why you should try pole dancing
What’s the point of the handstand?
In yoga, the handstand is called Adho Mukha Vrksasna, which translates as ‘tree face down’. All well and good, but what is this all about? A lot of things. The handstand is not only a cool move, the reverse posture also has a positive effect on body and mind:
1. handstand trains the body tension
In handstand, body tension is the key to balance. You learn to hold your body firmly in one form and then keep your balance upside down.
2. handstand promotes concentration
The unfamiliar posture has the direct consequence that we practice more concentrated and are fully engaged. There is no room for other thoughts for the time being.
3rd handstand boosts your self-confidence
Turning the world upside down requires courage, because most people are used to standing with both feet firmly on the ground. To learn handstands, you have to venture out of this comfort zone. It can be very enriching for your self-confidence to change your perspective, to turn your world upside down and to overcome fears.
Body tension gives you stability, you keep your balance with your fingertips when doing handstands. © Undrey / Shutterstock.com
Which muscles are trained in a handstand?
For the reverse posture you need not only strength in your arms and upper body, but above all stability in your abdominal muscles. “The back muscles also play a bigger role than most people think,” Kim explains. In a handstand, you work with an isometric muscle contraction. This means that the muscle length does not change when you tense the muscles.
Much more decisive than muscle strength, however, is a sure instinct and a good sense of balance in a handstand: “There are two decisive factors in a handstand: control over the fingertips and the strength of the body,” says the expert. Body tension gives stability, you keep your balance via your fingertips.
In 10 easy steps to the headstand with Mady Morrison
The best preliminary exercises for the handstand
Those who do yoga often hear during the classes: Relax your shoulders. In handstand the opposite is the case. “When practicing handstands, you should make sure that your arms are rotated outwards so that the bends of the arms point in the same direction as the fingertips. Pull the shoulders towards the ears to stabilize the upper back, but at the same time stretch the chest out,” Kim explains.
You can practice this posture before doing the handstand (with a partner) with the following preliminary exercises:
1. the boat
The boat is a classic abdominal muscle exercise that many people know from Pilates. To do this, sit upright, put your legs up and let your upper body sink back slightly and tense your abdominal muscles. Now lift your feet off the floor. You can stretch your legs or keep your lower legs horizontal. Release your hands from the floor as well and stretch them forward at shoulder level.
Phew, that’s a lot of work. Now like a boat in the water, gently bobbing back and forth. “Your posture doesn’t change and you practice maintaining muscle length. Like a boat, you stay very firm,” says yoga teacher Hie Kim.
2. floating plank
“The feet are like Romeo and Juliet. They love each other very much and want to stay together forever,” says Kim. So he lets students go into the plan position to test it: hands resting shoulderwide, shoulder blades apart, upper back round, tiptoe up, torso hard as a board.
Then a training partner slowly lifts the feet of the person practicing and “tests whether the love is strong” by carefully releasing one foot. The task: Keep the feet closed! “In this exercise, you train your legs to center, maintain the correct shape, and build body tension,” Kim explains.
5 Plank variants for a strong centre
3. toe balance
“This exercise illustrates how we later balance ourselves in handstands. That’s what we mainly use our fingers for,” Kim explains. Stand upright with your feet closed. Stay completely straight and slowly lean back and forth. You’ll notice: “If we lean too far forward, we intuitively push our toes into the ground to avoid falling over. We do the same thing in a handstand with our hands.”
4. put on legs
This exercise is used to activate the abdominal muscles and to practice the move, which will later bring you into a handstand in a controlled manner without swinging and with pure muscle power. It is best to put on socks and practice on a smooth surface. Come into the plank, lay your feet flat and pull them from your abdominal muscles over the floor towards you. The hips rise above the shoulders.
“Feel exactly what the abdominal muscles are doing and memorize this movement, it’s very important later.”
5. lift hips above shoulders
“This exercise is all about empathy. You have to be able to fully rely on your exercise partner and she has to put herself in your place while you learn to bring your hip over your shoulders.” The practitioner starts in the plank and the partner carefully lifts her feet (Attention: always lift vertically upwards, do not pull backwards). From this starting position, the practitioner pushes the hip up as far as possible.
6. the hot wire
The band begins to play! In the plank you walk with your feet towards your hands and then lift one leg stretched out in the air like doing a standing splits. Your partner grabs this foot and supports it so that you can press the foot into her hand and thus align the other leg upwards just above your pelvis and land in a half handstand. The other leg, which supports the exercise partner at right angles, now becomes the “hot wire”.
One hand supports from below, with the other hand it gives you a few centimetres of leeway at the top. Now the previously practiced move from the abdominal muscle exercise comes into play: “If you now tense the abdominal muscles firmly, you can lift the leg from your partner’s supporting hand. Touch the upper hand of your partner and press your fingertips firmly into the ground to keep your balance. Your foot hovers between your partner’s hands? Congratulations, you can do handstand!
How do I manage to keep my balance in handstands?
Crucial for the handstand is that you learn to bring the pelvis over the shoulders and find balance in this position. As the toe balance has shown, you can do this in a handstand mainly with your fingertips and body tension. By the way: “If you have a good feeling for your legs, you can open them in the air in a balancing act. This makes it much easier to balance on your hands,” says the handstand instructor.
Play with balance: Have you already heard SUP -Yoga? –
Can I practice the handstand on the wall?
If you understood the technique but do not always have a training partner, you can also practice the handstand on the wall. Important: Do not let it plop against the wall from behind. “You won’t learn to get up that way.” Instead, rather practice with your stomach against the wall, balancing yourself with body tension, abdominal muscles and sure instinct, and thus releasing yourself from the wall.
“For this you need a plan to get out safely in case you get too much momentum and threaten to tip over backwards,” says Kim.
Platt said: You have to practice falling correctly so that you do not hurt yourself. “This exit strategy has to be as simple as possible, because when we fall we don’t have time for complex procedures,” the expert explains. So: If you threaten to fall backwards with your right leg, you take a step forward with your right hand. This immediately shifts your centre of gravity and you land on your feet.
How quickly can you learn a handstand?
“When I ask my students if they consider themselves ambitious, most of them say yes. But being ambitious also means working long and patiently without being rewarded. This also applies to handstands. Of course it also depends on the experience of movement. If you did gymnastics as a child, you see success faster than others,” says Kim.
The most important basics of Yoga
How does the handstand on one hand work?
A simple handstand is not enough for you? Then here comes the professional version: “The easiest way to learn the one-armed handstand is to practice with a yoga block,” says Kim. So you do a shoulder-wide handstand with the left hand supported on a yoga block.
“Keep feet firmly together and extend both arms.” This causes the left buttock to shift over the right shoulder. When you have found your balance in this position, you can slowly release your left hand from the yoga block. Attention: “Do not stretch your arm to the side like a circus artist – this will only throw you off balance. Stretch your arm straight up beside your body”, Kim recommends.
Handstand practice with Kick Ass Yoga
Yes, it takes time full of practice and patience to learn the handstand. But always remember: It is a process. A process that strengthens both the body and the mind.