Notes on Handstand Technique

Handstand technique is ridiculously important when it comes to going upside down. While yoga is, or can be, a smooth and gentle practice, handstand is one of the more active poses that we teach. And the attempt to get up into them can be downright violent.

Watching students who don’t employ any particular handstand technique can be painful from a teacher’s perspective. Trying to turn the body upside down takes effort but the excess effort that so many students put into their attempts at handstanding can have seriously negative effects including lower back pain due to excessive effort.

I cover three points in the video above about handstand technique.

  • The shoulders have to move past the wrist to find the leverage to make the pose easier.
  • The hip of the lifting leg must remain at, or close to, the same height as the standing leg if we are to use the psoas correctly, which makes getting into the pose a much more efficient action.
  • The essential work comes from the standing leg not the lifting leg.

If the shoulders move past the wrist you are a good way into the pose already. There will be a lot less effort involved if you do not have to find your way to bring both the shoulders and the hips into the action. Start with the shoulders in the completed position and getting up will take expend much less energy.

The psoas acts like a pulley in the body if it is properly aligned and in the case of handstand technique, if the lifting leg hip flies open towards the ceiling the pulley system can’t be employed. This doesn’t mean you can’t  get up this way but it will require a lot more drive than is necessary. Keeping the lifted hip turned down will connect the leg to the trunk and help to engage the back muscles that lengthen the spine and make going upside down a great deal easier.

Finally, too many people think that it is the work of the lifting leg that will take the hips over the shoulders. Unfortunately the more students try to use the lifting leg, the more likely it will be that they compress the bones of the lower back with each attempt. The standing leg, or the spring leg, is what will get you into the pose most efficiently.

Developing correct handstand technique can be frustrating because it sometimes makes it initially harder to get into the pose due to less thrust and more economy of movement. But working this way will pay off in the long run and your practice and body will be happier for it.

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