Handstand - Adho Mukha Vrksasana (Downward Facing Tree)
Arm Balance - Inversion
Handstand offers great development of strength and balance to nearly the whole core body. It requires strong and flexible wrist and forearms, strong and open shoulders, awareness of core stabilization, and also technique for the legs to help maintain lightness and balance. Many people jump into handstand but it is better to move without momentum into the pose so the necessary muscles are felt and you know how to engage to stay in the pose without risk of injury. To do this without props requires a lot of flexibility in forward bends and the wrists. From forward bend exhale forward, pressing weight into the first knuckles until the feet lift.
Until this level of flexibility is reached you can use props to elevate the feet. Try starting this movement from on top of a few blocks. This can also be done from feet up a wall. This means you will not have to lean as far forward to "press" or lift up into the handstand. In the beginning you want to be able to hold handstand with bent knees towards your chest. The shorter the pose the easier to balance. When you can stabilize in this position then use your exhales to slowly extend your legs straight up reaching through the toes.
Alignment & Actions
-Hands beneath shoulders or slightly closer.
This helps the shoulder activation.
-In the beginning look between the hands.
-Push the hands down and bring the shoulders closer to the ears.
-Draw in the ribs and the tailbone towards the midline.
-Squeeze the legs together and point the toes.
-After balance is achieved in straight handstand, let the head down and look back.
Worried about falling? One option is to fall out to the side in a cartwheel. Even better is practicing with a friend! With a friend spotting you can go right for straight legs with an assisted press up. They can tap you into the balance, and help you find straight. It's also good to squeeze your legs tight as they try to pull them apart. The tighter you are, when you find the balance it will feel surprisingly easy.
This will train your muscles to hold the straight line. Lay down face down on the floor, reach your arms to the front and point your toes to the back. With an exhale engage to reach your hands forward shoulders towards your ears. Tuck your tailbone slightly lifting the front of the pevlic rim from the floor and squeeze the legs tightly. Hold this for 15-30 seconds and breath.
This exercises develops flexibile and strong wrist. In a seated or standing position extend the arms forward, palms open and fingers spread. Curl the hands into fists, and then turn the fists down and squeeze. Turn the fists up and spread the fingers. Do this until your forearms burn. In the beginning it can be a light action. As you get familiar with it extend your arms more and engage your triceps. This will make more integration for the wrist and elbow.
Shoulder Extension Stretches
You can do Anahatasana to help open the shoulders or simply use a wall or flat object about hip height. Bend from your hips, hands on the prop. As you exhale let your chest move down through your shoulders. Try with both the palms down and palms facing each other.
In Handstand inhale your legs wider apart, and exhale together to straight.
Bring the legs in a wide straddle towards level with the ground. Begin to move both legs across horizontally and twist from your waist.
Look down and do pushups in your handstand. Start with small dips. Let the elbows turn out. It may be easier to do with bent legs. You can also try looking forward and slightly arching your spine while keeping the elbows more in as if going to chaturanga.
Arm Balance Presses
Try pressing up and lowering down in various arm balances such as crow pose, firefly, peacock, and more.