As a child handstands were probably something that you just did naturally. But somewhere along the way to adulthood they became a bit scary. The fear that we often feel towards handstands and other inversions is most likely due to an innate fear of falling.
When I first started taking karate I was nervous about being thrown. But once I figured out how to fall, I could relax and soften my body and I realized I could be thrown without being injured. It was a very empowering.
Similarly in yoga we can overcome our fear of inversions by creating a foundation that allows us to do these postures safely and eventually, joyfully.
Today we will explore a modified version of handstand sometimes called Half Handstand. This version of handstand uses the wall for support as you build towards the full pose. It helps to strengthen your arms and shoulders and it also gives you a sense of what it feels like to be upside down.
Practicing variations can help you develop confidence and uncover a bit of the excitement that comes with being upside down!
Benefits of Half Handstand
- Strengthens your shoulders, arms and wrists.
- Stretches and engages core muscles.
- Improves your sense of balance.
- Calms your mind and can help to relieve mild depression and stress.
One of the greatest benefits of Half Handstand is that it challenges you to step out of your comfort zone. You are faced with some fear and insecurity. It is a place where you can develop self-confidence and courage. The challenges of the pose are exactly what make it so valuable.
A few words of caution: Avoid Half Handstand if you have high blood pressure, glaucoma, inner ear infection or any issues with your wrists, elbows or shoulders.
Turning It Upside Down
1. Find the correct placement for your hands.
Start in Staff Pose (Dandasana). Sit with your back against a wall and your legs straight out in front of you. Take note of where your heels are on the mat. This is where you will place your hands in the Half Handstand. You can put a yoga block here to mark the spot.
2. Move into Table Pose.
Come onto your hands and knees. Hands are where your feet were (beside the yoga block if you used it) and are about shoulder width apart. Take a couple of breaths feeling the movement of your belly as you inhale and exhale.
3. Walk one foot up the wall.
Inhale and walk one foot up the wall. Straighten the other leg and left your hips towards the ceiling.
4. Place the other foot on the wall.
Exhale and press strongly into the wall with the foot of the raised leg. Lift your other foot up to join the first.
5. Explore the pose.
Find a place where you feel strong yet not rigid and unmoving. Move and sway a little bit, teasing and testing balance.
6. Engage and soften.
Press into the floor with both hands creating an upward spiral of energy. Keep your arms, shoulders and core muscles strong but soften in those places where muscle strength is not currently needed. Remain here for five breaths (or for as long as you are comfortable).
Come out of the posture slowly and gently and rest for a few breaths in Child’s Pose (Balasana).
Half Handstand actually takes more upper body strength than the full version. If you can do this variation, be confident that you are ready for Full Handstand… !