Adho Mukha Vrksasana – handstand is a pose I’m working on for a while. I had hoped to master is by now, but my wrist are a bit unwilling at this moment. Too many massages, too many arm balances without proper warming up slowed down my progress. I am getting into it, I’m just not as stable as I like to be and for as long as I like to be. Nor am I able to play around with it as soon as I’m up. I’m actually happy with that. It gives me something to work on. Like Osho said: “It’s no fun to reach your goal. If you have reached your goal you have to find a new one. It’s better to enjoy the road.”
Two years ago I did a yoga workshop with Marius Weerts on PaasCro, the Dutch Acro Yoga Festival. Marius gave me the pieces of the puzzle I was lacking. There is only a difference between knowing what to do and being able to do it. Training can overcome that difference. According to Marius it takes a year to learn a handstand and five years to learn a one hand handstand. That is: if you work on it at least three till five times a week. As soon as my wrists allow me to do that I’ll be practicing again.
How to get into Adho Mukha Vrksasana – handstand
- Warm up your wrist first. It protects you from wrist injuries just like mine
- Warm up core (with this video) and shoulders
- When you’re warm move into downward facing dog
- Walk your both feet forward as far as comfortable
- Lift one leg up in the air and hold it in the air
- Now push off with the other leg and bring it in the air as well until both legs are vertical
- Engage your abdominal muscles strongly: creating a shallow C-shape by bringing your lower ribs and pubic bone closer together
- Engage your gluteus maximus (buttocks) strongly as well
- Press both legs together in the air. This will balance you more
- You can bend the tops of your fingers slightly like playing piano. By playing with your fingertips you can adjust your balance
- Stay in the pose as long as comfortable and slowly lower one leg at the time
A lot of teachers will tell you not to kick up in handstand. Kicking up brings you out of balance. It’s a good advice, but it only works if your body proportions allow you to. Remember: there is no picture perfect in yoga. If you have really long arms, short legs or your hamstrings are tight you won’t be able to get into it without kicking up at least a bit. The trick is not to use a lot of power when you come up. I prefer doing 2 ‘tryout’ kicks before I come up. Just little, small ones to see how much power you actually need. The third time you can ‘go all the way’.
The other thing you probably want to do, is to start with a wall behind you or with the help of a spotter. That will make sure you won’t fall over the other way. I love practicing in a swimming pool or in the ocean. The water gives a feeling of stability and it’s not that heavy.
Benefits of Adho Mukha Vrksasana – handstand
- Strengthens shoulders, arms and wrist
- Opens the chest
- Strengthens the abdominal muscles and gluteus muscles
- Enhances the balancing organs
- Conquers fear
- Enhances mindfulness
Adho Mukha Vrksasana is Sanskrit. The correct translation is not handstand, but tree with the head facing downwards.
Source: Light on Yoga - BKS Iyengar Key muscles of Yoga – Ray Long Ashtanga – David Swenson Asana Pranayama Mudra Bandha – Swami Satyananda Saraswati