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4 Accessible Ways to Get Into Handstand Yoga Pose

A handstand is an inversion and an arm balance that shifts your perspective by going upside down!

There are many ways to prepare the body for handstands and practice to come into this posture. 

By stacking the joints from the wrists, shoulders, hips, heart, and head, the handstand becomes much easier to sustain. 

Please keep reading to see the four ways we offer handstands, with classes for beginners and advanced practitioners!

About Handstand:

Body Parts Targeted: wrists, shoulders, chest, core (abdominals), and hamstrings. 

How to Prepare:

Muscles to be strengthened: core, obliques, inner thighs, pectorals, and erectors (spinal muscles)

Muscles to be lengthened: hamstrings, shoulders, and wrists.

Contradictions 

People recovering or who have wrist injuries, carpal tunnel syndrome, or migraines should avoid doing handstands until cleared by a doctor. 

People who are pregnant or menstruating and those who suffer anxiety should also avoid this inversion.

Poses to do instead of handstand include legs up the wall (viparita karani) or standing splits. You can also do a forearm stand to remove the weight from the wrists or donkey kicks from the down dog.

Here are four options to get into handstand 

1. 

Take an L-shape handstand using the wall – take the class Constantly Changing Vinyasa 

How to do it: 

Turn around to face the wall for an L-shape handstand.

Measure yourself on the wall by placing your feet flat on the wall.

Wherever your bum lands, one hand will go there. 

Turn around so your feet are against the wall and you’re facing the front of your mat; stack your shoulders over your wrists and lift your hips for a down dog with your heels on the wall.

Handstand Option 1: L-Shape on the Wall

  • Walk your feet up the wall from down dog 

  • Place your feet so that they are in line with your hips

  • Press your heels and ball of the foot against the wall to anchor

  • Press your hands against the ground and puff up the back body

  • Keep your shoulders stacked over your hands and draw your chest toward your thighs

Take your feet and knees to the ground and rest in children pose to feel the effects of what we’ve just done. 

Handstand Option 2: L-Shape on the Wall with Leg Lifts

  • Take the same shape we created in option 1, stay here, OR add to it by taking one leg off the wall at a time

  • Anchor your feet up the wall at hip height

  • Bring your heels together so big toes touch

  • Press one foot where it is and lift the opposite leg to the sky

  • Reach from the heel toward the sky straight up out of your hip

  • Take five breaths here and switch legs.

Take a child’s pose to rest between sides. 

2. 

Split leg handstand hops – try the classes Stand On Your Hands + Quick Handstand + Softening the Grip.

How to do handstand hops off the wall:

  • Come to the middle of your mat with your palms about a foot away from the wall 

  • Come into a downward-facing dog

  • Walk your feet in towards your hands

  • Stack your shoulders over your wrists 

  • Lift one leg and point your toes toward the sky

  • Take little hops on the standing leg

  • Attempt to reach your extended toes toward the wall

  • Press the ground away from you with your hands

  • Take 3-5 hops on one side, and then switch

Take a child’s pose or seat and rest to feel the effect of this in your body. 

3. 

Kicking with the support of the wall – take Loss Vinyasa.

How to prepare:

Jump to a seat for core work:

  • Stack your knees over your hips 

  • Take your toes in line with your knees

  • Press your back and ribs into the earth

  • Take your palms to your thighs and press your legs away from you

  • Alternately, draw your legs in towards your palm

  • The resistance creates tension to strengthen the lower abdominal muscles

  • Inhale and press hands to thighs

  • Exhale and extend the same arm and leg on one side

  • Repeat six cycles total on one side, then switch sides

Handstand variations:

  • Donkey kicks with heels to bum

  • Move to a wall and kick your toes to the wall

4. 

Wide-legged handstand hops/press – take Wonder Vinyasa.

For Beginners

Here’s how to prepare and practice handstand:

  • Donkey kicks from a downward dog – do three kicks.
  • Frog legs from a downward dog – do three kicks.
  • Scissor leg kicks from standing splits – do three on each side. 

 

For Advanced Practitioners

Here’s how to challenge yourself in handstand:

  • Handstand press from wide legs 
  • Scissor leg kicks suspended in the air 
  • Handstand, tuck and hold 

 

For Yoga Teachers

Example of how to open a handstand class:

Today’s class invites you to find balance through breath, movement, effort, and intention as you build toward Adho Mukha Vrksasana (handstand). You’ll move through lunges, warriors, leg balancing, core strengthening, twists, and hamstring lengthening. 

Sample cooling sequence post handstand:

Utthan Pristhasana (lizard pose)

Take a backbend of your choice for 15 breaths; options include:

  • Ustrasana (camel pose) 
  • Setu Bandha Sarvāṅgāsana (bridge pose)
  • Urdhva Dhanurasana (wheel pose)
  • Dhanurasana (bow pose)
  • A supported variation with a block under your bum

Ananda Balasana (happy baby pose) OR Pavanamuktasana (wind release pose)

Supta Kapotasana (reclined pigeon pose) 

Baddha Konasana (seated bound angle pose) with the option to take a neck release OR forward fold. 

A closing pose of choice, options:

  • Paschimottanasana (seated forward fold)
  • Upavistha Konasana (seated wide-legged forward fold) 
  • Viparita Karani (legs up the wall)

Savasana or seated meditation to close.

From the Handstand Tutorial
with Clara Roberts-Oss:

The key to handstands is to get your hips over your shoulders and wrists.

You want the joints to stack so you don’t have to work as hard to lift your legs. 

The most efficient way of doing this is to get the hips over the shoulders as best we can. And that’s where bending the knees as you come in, especially if it’s not accessible for the hamstrings or the lower back, is the best thing you can do for yourself because you don’t have to swing with as much pizzazz. 

The more we swing and use momentum, the less control we have. 

We want to refine it to bring the legs as high as possible. 

So, from down dog, I walk my feet in, and as I walk my feet in, I can bend my knees.

Push the ground away and claw the mat with the finger pads. One leg goes up to the sky. If the knee is bent and I kick, it goes rogue, which means I don’t have control over it. Which means the person next to you starts getting nervous. Just to be real about it, we don’t want anybody nervous. 

What helps prepare the body for a handstand? 

The reason we do so much block work with the block between your inner thighs is that you want to squeeze the inner thighs towards each other whenever you’re inverting.

This activates your core stabilizers, and you want these muscles to engage when you are going upside down.

What do you say to people who are new to a handstand?

For those new to handstands, you can take donkey kicks from a down dog, single-leg handstand hops, and split-leg kicks. 

You look is where you go. 

 Now, anatomically, you’re supposed to look towards the center of the room because your neck is long and your spine is neutral. However, we can’t even get there if you’re new to this. You want to look at where you’re going. So look forward. 

What do you offer to people with wrist sensitivity? 

You can hold the standing splits instead of kicking up into a handstand. 

Standing splits are the prep for the handstand, and you don’t need to put any pressure on the wrists. 

Seraphina Dawn

Seraphina has a BA in Literature from Simone Fraser University and participated in the Creative Writing Program at UC Berkeley. She is a Kundalini teacher, writer, and poet. She admires Clarice Lispector’s prose, Octavia Butler’s fiction, and Simone Weil's philosophy. Seraphina currently lives in Istanbul. 

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