What it all comes down to is Bandha, or inner body locks. When we use our hands on the ground this way we make a Hasta Bandha, hand lock. By grounding the whole hand, palm, and fingers...are hands becomes more like feet. Even the center of the palm can be like "suction lifting" or an arch. This is the nature of bandha too, there is lift in the center by this action. The multi-engagement of muscles around the hand, wrist joint, forearm, and even upper arm, shoulder, and chest, all effects the wrist and stability of yoga poses on that hands.
Always start with fundamentals. Alignment for the shoulders, wrists, and even the knuckles in the most basic poses are essential as well as a basic warm up with strengthening exercises, and moderate stretches. This is one of my favourite wrist warm-up and therapies I created.
Recently I taught a handstand workshop in HOM Yoga, Singapore. This workshop was particularly fun and challenging due to the wide range of body conditioning of the people who come to be honest! A gave a lot of different exercises all throughout the class in quick stages, to the order of...
... level one strengthening and conditioning the upper body
....level two getting into a handstand
....level three long holds and strengthening upper body moves
All three options were presentes each round until some free playtime at the end. A lot of people want to learn how to stick a handstand and some of them definitely got some new techniques that day. Handstand is fun and feels amazing, and can also actually provide a meditative experience too, when mastered. The class with very enthusiastic and psyched after a full out warm up and joint awareness exercises and I think I saw a lot of progress.
Each student had different challenges to face in seeking to master their handstand. I responded to each one personally and then also made it into a group activity too. This is a great way to teach, by responding directly to your students and refining technique for all practitioners.
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Some were more experienced and looking for ways to develop their control, or find more ease and strength in handstand. Some were just barely beginning to approach good plank poses! This made it useful in such a multi-level class to begin offering many options to the students in every round of exercises. I showed what they may need to work on to develop further so that everyone has something to do, and feel focused throughout the entire class.
Some who came were not structurally ready to support the weight of their lower body through their shoulders. These students I instructed to continue using the strengthening exercises such as plank, feet up the wall, or hollow-body pike with weight shifting forward into the hands from forward bend.
Some students were not ready in the range of motion of their shoulder extension for a real balance. Sufficient shoulder extension allows you to find the straight line of a handstand. Handstand(and inversions) are better to master with straight alignment first so that core stability(protecting your spine) is prioritised and easy to maintain in backbending inversions. You can easily see that the “banana” shape handstands of most beginners is very different from the intended backbending of a more adept practitioner and the difference should tell you something about how that persons spine would feel. Those with tight shoulders can do puppy dog pose, arms on a banister and chest releasing down, gomukhasana, and various other shoulder stretching poses to help.
Key Points for Mastering Handstand
- Ground your hands, palms, and fingers
- Move your shoulders away from your ears in external rotation
-Tone your shoulders with lots of plank and forearm plank pulses - move your shoulders forward and back
- Secret Tip! Create a slight action as if your hands were moving away from each other on the ground and try your hands closer together than shoulder width a bit
- Understand and use strong abdominal bandha, keep your core lifted and pulling inwards with deep breath
- Always breath. Exhale into a handstand or inversions for easier core activation
- If your jumping into the pose start with a tuck(knees to chest) or straddle(legs wide and low). Lead with your sacrum and don't kick up with your legs
- If you're working on straight handstand keep your legs squeezing tight together
-Keep working on your splits until you can just lift into handstand!
Then the enjoyment of the lightness in balance! Once you get really solid in a straight handstand and hold for a minute(yes!) you can start to explore some! Don't give up!
with love and Oms
George is the founder of Sajeeva Yoga School, and a practitioner and teacher on the journey of exploring life, truth, purpose, and
Yoga technique, Yoga in Asia, Yoga Workshops, Teaching Methods, Asana Alignment, Yoga Tips, Breathing, awareness, mindfulness, spiritual journey, yoga lifestyle,