Holding a handstand in the middle of the room without a wall seems like a pretty lofty goal. It just looks so cool! iit exhibits strength, control and that certain je ne sais quoi. So I’ve found a few reasons that might be holding you back from mastering “Upside Down Tree Pose”, or Adho Mukha Vrksasana in Sanskrit.
Your shoulders are really tight and you can’t get your arms completely straight. You might feel like your whole body is caving into the shoulder girdle and you collapse out of handstands quickly. Try to work on shoulder openers like “Cow-Face Arms”, pictured below. They will start to create more mobility in the joint that connects your upper arm bone to the torso. This helps get your body in the right alignment to support more weight steadily. If you can’t connect the hands yet, use a towel or a strap and slowly inch your hands closer together. Hold the pose for at least 8 breaths on each side and work on doing it at least 3 times per week.
You have zero abdominal strength. There is this belief that handstands are all upper body, but in reality, it’s more so abdominal strength and proper alignment. If you want to do a handstand in the middle of the room, you have to work your abs like crazy (as in almost every day). Eagle crunches are one of the few belly exercises that I feel the very next day – they’re that effective! Shoot for sets of 15 on each side at least every other day.
You’re kicking up instead of lengthening and lifting up, so you’re more likely to flip all the way over. Kicking up is a ballistic movement that requires crouching back behind the arms and using tremendous force to lift up off the ground. It doen’t yield a smooth and graceful lift-off with control. When you kick up, you exert a lot of momentum, and hope for the best. Take a look at the two pictures below. The first one shows what happens when you kick up too hard and flip all the way over. Notice how far back you have to be to crouch down and spring up. The second picture shows the correct way to lift up into handstand. You have to come into a deep standing splits and lean forward enough so the shoulders go past the wrists.
You’re deathly afraid of breaking something so the fear of going too far forward won’t allow you to position your body where it needs to go to find the balance. This is just something you have to overcome. Being upside down is scary, but when you find the balance without a wall it feels amazing! Go ahead, try it again and again and fall a few times. Sometimes you have to fall and realize that it’s not so bad and you survived. Don’t let a little fear ruin all the fun.
You keep telling yourself you will never be able to do a handstand without the wall. This is by far one of the worst things you could do to sabotage your progress. Be patient, be kind to yourself and try to talk to yourself positively about your ability to do a handstand. You can do anything you set your mind to but you have to want it badly enough. Try some visualization exerises in a seated position. Close your eyes and envision yourself doing a handstand. Picture yourself planting your palms firmly on the ground, feeling the support of the earth. Lean forward confidently into your fingertips and lightly floating up to a solid, 30-second handstand. See it clearly in your mind and soak up every detail of how it feels to accomplish something so challenging.
You don’t practice enough. One a week or once every few weeks won’t cut it if you really want to hold a handstand without support. Try popping up several times a week if not several times a day. Practice makes perfect and you want your body to start developing muscle memory and discipline. In the end it’s not the pose that matters much, but rather the effort behind it and what we can learn about ourselves in the process.
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