5 Tips to Balance in Handstand
Almost no yoga pose brings as invigorating, fun and light-hearted joy as balancing in Handstand. When we can’t balance, though, it’s frustrating and a true test of yogic mindfulness. For the intermediate practitioner who’s already familiar with Adho Mukha Vrksanasa (Handstand), there’s a multitude of things to do to make balancing in it easier. These are a few favorites to get you away from the wall and out into the middle of the room.
- Stretch Your Legs and Hips First.
A crucial component to balancing in Handstand is to stack our center of gravity, in this case, the pelvis, over the balance point between our hands. Without limberness in the legs and hips, getting the pelvis up over the hands is much more difficult. It also requires more effort to kick up if we feel stiff and tight.
A few great yoga poses to open the legs and hips are: Uttanasana (Standing Forward Fold), Adho Mukha Shvanasana (Downward Dog), Parsvottanasana (Pyramid Pose), Adho Mukha Eka Pada Rajakapotasana (Downward Facing Pigeon Pose) and Supta Padangusthasana (Reclining Hand to Big Toe Pose).
- Squeeze Your Legs Straight.
Once we kick up into Handstand, we absolutely must bring our legs together and straighten them. Floppy legs and separated feet make Handstand feel heavy; the result places the workload too much into the arms. Powered up legs, squeezed together and reaching for the sky brings more of our bodies into the pose. It also creates length, lightness and openness in Handstand, all of which make it easier to balance.
- Work Your Hands and Feet.
The hands and feet are such small parts of our bodies, but what we do with them makes a huge impact on how long and easily we can balance in Handstand. First, we need to spread our fingers and toes so that we are fully alert and active in the posture. In our hands the weight will shift slightly between the fingers and from finger tips to heels of the hands.
To absorb the fluctuations in balance that we experience in Handstand, we have to allow for this subtle weight shift in the foundation. It’s also important, both for balance, as well as for the support of the wrists, to press down with each finger tip and all four corners of the palms simultaneously.
The feet mirror the hands and can be used to controlled and calm the normal oscillations that occur in Adho Mukha Vrksasana. Once you are up in the pose, act as if your feet are on the ceiling. Push up strongly through the soles of your feet and spread your toes to manage the wobbles that always come.
- Focus Your Vision.
Where we look in Handstand has a lot to do with our stability in the pose. If our eyes dart this way and that, it means our minds are wandering. Without focus and concentration, balance will be challenging. Look at the ground in between your hands, but slightly out in front of them. Your focal point on the ground draws an equilateral triangle; your hands form the bottom two points, where you are looking is the top point. If you tuck your chin and look between your arms it’s almost guaranteed that you’ll fall into a somersault.
- Learn to Fall Safely.
Nothing, when it comes to balancing in Handstand, will shut us down faster than the fear of falling. To keep our motivation high and our bodies safe, we must learn to fall out of Handstand without falling flat on our backs. The trick is to rotate the pelvis and windmill the legs over, one at a time, much like a cartwheel.
If you overshoot the pose, begin to shift your weight slightly more into one hand — whichever one feel most natural — than the other. Then, turn your hips out towards that side (i.e. if you leaned onto your right hand, turn your hips open to the right) and swing that leg (the right one, in this scenario) over. The second leg will follow and as it lands, shift the weight back into the feet and off the hands.
Top 10 Yoga Poses for Headaches
Yoga can be a beneficial therapeutic tool for relieving headaches brought on by muscle tension and stress. The majority of headaches originate from muscle stiffness and imbalances emanating from the neck and upper back. When headaches set in, using a series of restorative yoga exercises can greatly relieve both the cause and symptoms. Here are our top yoga poses and exercises that naturally treat headaches.
1. Cat Pose: The flowing motion of breath and spine helps release tension from the neck and upper back while also pouring refreshing energy through the body and mind.
2. Seated Twists: Besides increasing circulation throughout the entire length of the spine, the twisting motion in the upper spine (cervical region) often alleviates tension coming from the scalene muscles of the neck (anterior aspect).
3. Chest Openers: Much of the tension in the back body is a result of muscle dominance from the front body (called Upper Cross Syndrome). Expanding the chest and front shoulder muscles helps break down muscular imbalances and frees the tension coming from the neck.
4. Eagle Arms: This simple crossed arm pose can be done in Mountain Pose or any natural seated posture. This back expander can reach well into the mid and upper back targeting problematic muscles around the shoulder blades and the base of the neck. Take time in this arm pose to breath slow and full into the upper back and insure that you perform this arm pose on both sides.
5. Simple Neck Stretches: Gently move through the various muscle fiber lines by allowing your head to float down to one shoulder with gravity, down across the chest and into the other side – repeat with a natural, unforced motion. Avoid letting the head fall back-keep the motion in a half circle from one shoulder to the other. Pause where you find extra areas of resistance.
6. Child’s Pose: A perfect restorative yoga pose that slightly inverts the body. A gentle flow of extra blood circulates into the head helping relieve tension. With the legs slightly separated, you can easily settle into deep core and back breathing to encourage a flood of circulation to reach deep into the body. Note that the head and neck should be absolutely comfortable. If needed, keep you arms forward or bend the elbows and rest the forearms by your chest/under your shoulders so the palms face up-this will greatly unload any pressure from the neck.
7. Two Knee Reclining Twist: Unlike our seated twists, this reclining twist can be far more restorative and held longer to bring deeper focus into relaxing the nervous system while the chest expands and rejuvenates the spine. Give extra attention to releasing the shoulders into the mat to release dominance of the shoulder and chest muscles.
8. Legs Up The Wall Pose: This highly beneficial inverted pose is great for developing hamstring flexibility and for improving circulation in the lower limbs. For headaches, the extra flow of blood to the brain and the restorative support can be deeply relaxing and nourishing.
9. Alternate Nostril Breathing: The aim of alternate nostril breathing is to restore balance to the energy systems. With balance, we find release and calm. This yoga breathing exercise is easy to do for all levels and targets the nervous system by slowing brain waves, calming the mind, and purging stress.
10. Relaxation Pose: After doing a series of restorative yoga poses, take some time to simply relax and release in Savasana. Turn the focus away from the symptoms of your headache and settle into the sensation of mental and physical release. You may find a light eye pillow helpful in moving tension/pressure out of the eyes and forehead. Increase your comfort by placing a bolster under the knees and a thin pillow under the head. To complement the chest openers and reclining twists, lay with the arms open to the sides/palms facing the ceiling.