To pull off a handstand, which is rewarding both mentally and physically, you need a combination of patience, practice and fearlessness. This challenging feat, a staple of both gymnastic and yoga practices, builds upper body strength, hones your balance, strengthens your bones and may even improve your circulation and respiration. To reap these benefits, however, you must practice proper form, and proper form relies on a straight-backed posture.
From the handstand position, press your hands into the ground. Pull your rib cage toward your thighs, and engage your shoulder blades so your shoulders are away from your ears. Lift your tailbone toward the ceiling, and feel the transfer of energy as it gently elongates the vertebrae of your spine. This will straighten your back, preventing an over-arched back.
Pull your belly button in toward your spine to encourage core stability, which helps prevent slouching during your handstand. Keep your abdominal muscles engaged throughout.
Keep your neck long and straight, in alignment with your spine. Don't bend your neck so that you're looking at the floor – keep your eyes focused on a spot that keeps your neck an lengthened extension of your spine. Bending your neck so that your head sticks out leads to an arched spine, and could cause injury.
Afraid of falling? Try a handstand against the wall. Your fingertips should be about an inch or two away from the wall, and when up, place your heels against the wall. Keep your feet together and slide your heels up the wall to elongate and straighten your back. Graduate to an assisted handstand, with a partner holding you in place by gently grasping your thighs. Once you're comfortable performing the pose with a straight back, move on to a non-assisted full handstand.
- Practice your handstand pose while standing up to perfect your posture.
- Focus on a sense of looseness and buoyancy in your handstand. Warm up with shoulder circles and bounce on your heels to encourage this feeling. While your back remains straight, your joints should not be locked or rigid.
- Practice planks without sagging your hips or slouching your shoulders. This exercise strengthens your core and helps your body get used to bearing weight, both of which improve your handstand form.
- Always do handstands on padded surface.
- As a beginner, perform handstands under the guidance of a certified yoga or gymnastics teacher or coach. Consult your doctor before entering this pose if you have joint-related issues in the wrists, elbows or shoulders.
Dan Ketchum has been a professional writer since 2003, with work appearing online and offline in Word Riot, Bazooka Magazine, Anemone Sidecar, Trails and more. Dan's diverse professional background spans from costume design and screenwriting to mixology, manual labor and video game industry publicity.