Three Steps to Improve Your Handstand From 0 to 100

The journey to handstand can be as exciting as it can be equally frustrating. For some students, finding their handstand comes relatively quickly, and for others, it can take years before noticing any progress.

Handstand, like many other intermediate and advanced poses, requires a combination of flexibility and strength. Shoulders better support handstands with more range of motion than average, long hamstrings, and a strong core. The rotator cuff muscles (the muscles surrounding the shoulder joint) are what really help your handstand. This will allow you to bear weight safely on your shoulders. This free 30-Day Yoga Challenge is a great way to work on your shoulder joint. You’ll soon be comfortable getting upside down and on your hands.

Here are some ways to improve your handstand and your mobility.

Mobilizing Wrists

The wrists should be able to extend up to 90 degrees, and sometimes even more. Two exercises can improve wrist mobility.

Wrist Stretch on Tabletop

Come to a tabletop with your arms shoulder-width apart. Keep the line of your wrists and turn the hands so that the fingers are pointing towards the knees. You can press down on the inner wrists and palms. Then, begin to tilt the pelvis to the feet in a range you are comfortable with. Hold for five breaths, then release. You can do the same from a high-plank position. You should be aware of the pressure that this puts on your wrists.

High Plank Forward Shift

As you step into the high plank position, your shoulders should be above your wrists. As you inhale and exhale while holding this pose, begin shifting your weight forward so that the shoulders are now ahead of the fingertips. Just as with the previous exercise, move only to a range where it is not painful. As if you were doing a plank, inhale and shift your weight backward. Repeat this 5-10 times.

External rotation of the Shoulders

You activate muscles that support your shoulder joint when you externally turn the shoulders while in a handstand. The serratus anterior is also engaged by externally rotating the shoulders. Some people argue that this muscle group supports the shoulder joint more than the rotator-cuff muscles.

Serratus anterior allows shoulder blades to be rotated upwards and also helps widen (or protract). Both actions are necessary for a good handstand.

Hold a broomstick in Tadasana, lying on your stomach, or standing with your arms shoulder distance apart. Imagine splitting the stick into two halves, creating an external rotation at the shoulder joint. Holding the lower ribs in position, raise the bar slowly and steadily towards the ears while maintaining this motion.

Step into a high plank position with your arms straight. Imagine turning your hands clockwise and counter-clockwise (with your left hand) and pressing firmly down through your hands. You should feel any engagement along your shoulders and the side of the body below the elbow.

As you exhale, move your pelvis slowly toward the Downward Dog. Only push back as far as you can while maintaining the external rotation of your shoulders. Hold for five breaths. Release and rest in the Child’s pose.

Core Strength

The handstand becomes effortless when you find a straight line or stack all the joints. Child’stting there is the real challenge. Hollow body practice is an excellent way to prepare for inversion.

Hollow Body

Lift both legs off the floor while lying flat on your back. As you exhale, let the shoulders and neck stay soft. Actively pull the navel toward the spine. Imagine literally hollowing the stomach.

Keep your upper body on the floor and concentrate on your lower ribs moving towards your hips. Your arms can be alongside you with palms pressing against your outer thighs.

You can continue to do this if you feel stable. As you rotate your shoulders externally, lower your arms toward the sides of your face while keeping your ribs tight against your upper abdominals. Many people will keep their arms at an angle.

You can prepare yourself for the handstand by doing a variety of exercises, drills, and asanas. What works for one person may not work for another. These steps are general guidelines that helped many of my students achieve their handstands.

It is important to let go of attachments to results and to be disciplined in your practice. Persist in your journey, no matter how short or long it is. Once you master the handstand, you will be ready to tackle your next challenging pose.

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