By Eugene Ahn
There are three important things to observe when practicing handstand:
- Be safe. Practice within your comfort zone. Everyone's comfort zone is different. Make sure you know yours. The key is to feel like you have control. When you have control, you're definitely in your comfort zone. Practice grows your zone.
- Have fun. Practicing should feel good. There's nothing to prove and nothing to accomplish, especially in any single session or practice. Think of your practice as an opportunity to blend work with play.
- Keep breathing. Your ability to breath deeply is a sign from your body that you feel safe and that you are open to having fun.
If you ever find yourself losing touch of any of these three things, then it's probably time to refocus yourself, back off, or stop. Come back to it when you have a renewed commitment to what's really important.
With that stated, here are some tips on how to do an easy, no-pressures handstand. This one is done with the help of a wall.
Stand at least one arm-length distance from a wall. Face the wall. From your waist, fold your upper body forward, so that your hands touch the ground. Press your palms flat into the ground, about one hand-length distance from the wall and shoulder width apart. Look to make sure your fingertips are pointing at the wall and that the crease of your wrists line up parallel to the wall. Press your index fingers and thumbs strongly into the ground. Take any bend out of your elbows by firming your outer upper arms inward toward the midline of your body. Firm and spread your shoulderblades wide across your back. When you are ready to try kicking up, gaze at a spot between your hands so that your eyes have something to keep from wandering. Shift your shoulders toward the wall so that they are directly over your hands.
With the leg of your choosing, bend your knee and place your foot a half step in toward the wall. Keep your other leg straight. Gaze at your spot, exhale deeply, and then push off the floor with your bent leg acting like a spring. As you do this little hop, lift your hips toward the wall, and sweep your straight leg up into the air. You will feel the sensation of your body weight shifting onto your hands. Also, you will get a sense of what it takes to kick your hips and your straight leg upright. Try to land lightly. Do these practice hops a few times before trying to kick up into full handstand.
Recheck your setup. Make sure you keep your arms straight! No bending at the elbows! Then, just as you did in your practice hops, exhale deeply and push off the floor with your bent leg acting like a spring. Kick up with the intention of shifting your hips over your shoulders. Using the momentum from your bent leg, swing your straight leg upward in an arc that sweeps toward the wall. Let the heel of your straight leg meet the wall. It might whack hard; if it does that's OK. Let your bent leg straighten and follow. With both heels against the wall, straighten your legs and hold them together. Flex your feet so that your heels press into the wall. Reach your heels up the wall. Reach your tailbone toward your heels. These two reaching actions create a sense of length and lift across your entire body, and will help your hands support your weight. Take several deep breaths here.
There are a number of ways to come down. Try this way, because it minimizes the chance of hurting your foot from a hard landing. Rest your tailbone against the wall. Maintaining straight arms and your tailbone against the wall, slowly bend your knees and walk your feet down the wall, toward your hips. Release or gently tap your heels away from the wall and let your bent knees point toward the ground. Your hips will naturally shift your weight off your hands. Let gravity do the work of drawing your feet to the ground. Land lightly on your toes, with your bent knees acting as shock-absorbing springs.