Inversions – Handstand Benefits
by Paul Selvey | Founder of Power Flow Yoga
Going upside down is incredibly good for you and so much fun. This can be as easy as a downward dog, or going up the scary scale: shoulder stand, headstand and ultimately handstand. Most people think they cannot do handstands, they are dangerous and could hurt themselves. Well, I guess they are right, but… with very little training almost anyone can do them safely. And with hours… days… oh OK weeks or months of daily practise, can be really good for you.
First, learn to fall-out: Several years ago I tried a handstand, and to my surprise did it! It was such a great feeling. Then, I panicked when I began to fall backwards, I twisted in mid air and came down hard on both knees. It felt like my knee caps had shattered. It was very painful and although nothing serious was damaged, it took several years to fully recover. So practising to fall-out is VERY important.
To fall out of handstand is easy. First practise cartwheels. Don’t worry about getting your legs high, it’s just the twist of the hips then lower one leg, then the other. It does not need to be elegant, just safe. Practice on soft ground, carpet etc. until you can do them confidently.
It’s all in the wrists: Your wrists become your feet in handstand supporting your whole body weight, so you need to build strength and flexibility. Take 5-10 mins to warm up by load bearing on your wrists by leaning on them in different directions while kneeling, then rotate and shake them out.
Build strength: Downward dogs, upward-dogs, planks, side planks etc. are great asanas to build upper body strength. Kicking up from standing splits will help you get a feel for the power needed to get those legs up. You don’t have to get into handstand but these kick-ups form the basis for getting into the asana correctly.
Don’t: Do handstand with your back to a wall. You will learn to rely on the wall engaging the wrong muscles (back not front) and it will encourage a banana back when in handstand.
Do: Handstands with your front to the wall. Try hanging out in an upside-down “L” shape. Feet on the wall, legs parallel to the floor, hips above the shoulders and shoulders above the wrists for 1-10 mins. As you get stronger in this position, try lifting one hand or leg at a time or walking your hands towards the wall. This will build strength in the right places and as you raise one leg at a time you will learn balance in the right direction. You know how to fall out, a simple cartwheel, so don’t be scared.
Some of the many health benefits include:
Handstands are immense fun and always make me feel like a child. This play boosts my mood, I always feel great after a 10 min practice session. Its hard to do much more than 10 mins, so do little and often is the best plan. After practise, my face is flushed with fresh blood, making my skin look younger and radiant, even my eyes are whiter. My upper body and core have become super strong, muscles popping up in places I did’t think I had muscles. Handstands build confidence, increase the ability to focus and conquer fear. Other benefits include: improved bone health, especially: wrists, arms, shoulders and spine.
Handstands will take many hours of practise for just a few seconds of success. If possible get yourself to a workshop to fine tune your practice. They are hard to do at first, but with lots of practice, they become easy, so don’t give up the practice also captures the same benefits.