Half Moon Pose
March 30, 2015
Happy Baby Pose
March 30, 2015

Handstand

LEVEL

Anatomy

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Pose Type

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Sanskrit

Adho Mukha Vrksasana
(ahh-doh moo-khah VRK-shahs-anna)
adho = downward
mukha = face
vrksha = tree 

BENEFITS

  • Strengthens the shoulders, arms, and wrists
  • Expands the chest
  • Improves balance
  • Calms the mind
  • Relieves stress

CONTRAINDICATIONS

  • Pregnancy
  • High blood pressure
  • Carpal tunnel syndrome
  • Neck, shoulder, or back injury
  • Headache
  • Heart conditions
  • Glaucoma
  • Ear infections

HOW TO

  1. Begin in Downward-Facing Dog with your hands shoulder-distance apart. Spread your fingers wide and press your palms firmly into the ground.
  2. Walk your feet in, toward your head, until your hips are aligned over your shoulders.
  3. Fix your gaze at one spot in between your hands. Draw your shoulders upward, toward your tailbone.
  4. Lift your right leg to the sky and flex your foot. Press firmly through the heel to keep this leg active. Then bend your left knee slightly, press into the ball of the left foot, and push off the floor to lift your left leg toward the sky.
  5. Continue pushing down through the palms and extending through the heels of your feet. Engage your abdominals to keep your hips aligned over your shoulders.
  6. Balance in the pose for several breaths. Exhale and lower the legs one at a time. When practicing Handstand, alternate which leg you lift first.

MODIFY OR REPLACE

Alternatives:

Modifications:

  • Practice against an open wall for support. Place your hands about 4 inches away from the wall. Then follow the steps above, but kick the legs up toward the wall, until you can balance with legs extended straight up.
  • Practice hopping into a handstand before you try to balance in the pose. Extend your right leg toward the sky. Bend your left knee and, pressing through the ball of the left foot, kick the left leg off the floor, springing both legs toward the sky.
  • Wrap a yoga strap around your upper arms to keep them strong and engaged.

SEQUENCING TIPS

Before:

After:

TEACHING CUES

  • Rotate your upper arms outward.
  • Keep your gaze focused at one point to balance.
  • Draw your belly toward your spine.
  • Reach your tailbone toward your heels.
  • Keep your shoulder blades lifted as you come out of the pose.

VARIATIONS

  • Lift your head and face the floor.
  • Advanced practitioners, who are very comfortable in Handstand, may move into Scorpion Handstand (Vrschikasana).

WATCH OUT FOR

  • Overarching the spine
  • Shoulders collapsing