Digital Asana Project

VIDEO: Handstand Practice

Today I’m reposting a video demo on how I learned to do handstands away from the wall. For some reason, this is something that all beginning yogis seem to be obsessed with figuring out, as if being able to do an unsupported handstand is the pinnacle of yoga. Yes, handstands are fun, invigorating, and a real butt-kicker. But remember that the ability to do handstands away from the wall does not make one an advanced yogi. In fact, yogis who go into this acrobatic stuff too soon can run the risk of delaying progress in other areas of their practice.

In my own yoga journey, this ability to do wacky physical feats on the yoga mat ended up being the entirety of my yoga practice for many years. I neglected almost all the other aspects of yoga, putting most of my efforts towards “advanced” asanas. Unfortunately, this is a very lopsided way to practice yoga, and it is likely to feed, not humble, one’s ego. So, keeping all of this in mind, I repost this demo with two warnings/disclaimers: (1) you can get seriously injured from doing this stuff, so please learn under the guidance of a qualified yoga teacher, and (2) if you do incorporate handstands into your practice, remember to check your ego at the door, and remind yourself that asanas are just preparation for the really hard stuff, i.e., meditation.

Originally posted April 14, 2007

Many of us learned Adho Mukha Vrksasana, or Handstand, by kicking up at the wall. This is certainly a good and safe way to feel what it’s like to get upside-down. But the wall can become a crutch, and eventually we’ll want to learn how to do Handstand away from the wall, with the hope of one day seamlessly weaving in Handstands into the flow.

I’d like to demonstrate two methods that I used to learn how to get up into an unassisted Handstand. In this first video, I work with what one of my teachers calls a “Gorilla Jump”. I keep both knees bent when I jump, which compacts my body, and allows me focus on floating my hips over my shoulders and wrists, and to develop a feeling for what it’s like to get some “hang time”. Once I manage to balance on my hands, then I extend my legs straight towards the ceiling.

In this second video, I demonstrate a slightly more challenging way of learning how to do an unassisted Handstand. Notice how I leave one leg behind as a kind of counterbalance. The weight of this counterbalance leg keeps me from flipping over, and buys me some time to play with finding my balance. Once I’ve found my balance, then I bring the counterbalance leg up, and straighten out my Handstand.

Disclaimer: I am not a certified yoga instructor, and the ideas and opinions expressed here are not intended to be formal instruction on yoga poses. If you plan to start up a yoga practice, or if you have one and plan to do any of the yoga poses described in this blog, please seek out an experienced, living, breathing yoga teacher to guide you with hands-on instruction.

One thought on “VIDEO: Handstand Practice

  1. I have seen the L-shaped pose variation of your second video a LOT in the yoga classes I used to go to. Also the jump-forwards with straight legs. Can do neither, and I do think the ability to do both are correlated.

    I think that AcroYoga is just a way for show-offy women to demonstrate their handstands against a base’s legs. I don’t see the meditation in that practice at all; and I think several AcroYoga enthusiasts agree with me; the rest have drunk the Kool Aid and buy into the hype.

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