Month: December 2016

How to get up into handstands: asana sequences and tutorial

Guide to Handstands: Asanas, Sequences and Tips for Getting Comfortable Upside Down

Being able to easily hang out upside down in a handstand is definitely one of my personal goals.  It’s something that I am still working on as I write this, but I have gained substantial progress.  My biggest obstacle now is confidence.  I need to get myself away from the wall and trust that my muscles know how to hold me up even without that wall a couple of feet away “just in case.”  In this post, I want to share the asanas and exercises that I’ve done to get myself to the verge of being able to successfully handstand.  I feel like I’m just about to push over into the place where I can DO handstands (Adho Mukha Vrksasana in sanskrit).

Building Strength

First, it’s important to have the strength to hold yourself up(side-down).  We don’t usually spend so much time upside down so this strength may be totally new.  The most important areas that I had to work were my core, my shoulders, my arms, and my wrists… so everything but the legs!

Arm Strength

For arm strength, I practiced a variation on chaturangas.  Starting from child’s pose, keeping the knees on the floor, press your body forward toward your hands (with fingers spread wide to make a solid base).  When your body is over your arms and your elbows are bent nearly to 90 degrees, drop your chest down and forward like a chaturanga.  Then press your body forward and up to cobra pose.  From there, back to child’s pose and repeat!  Again and again and again.

I also tried sitting on the counter or a bench and lifting myself up by pressing into the bench or seat (or whatever surface is available to you).  Try this with your hands on the outside of your legs and from in between your legs.

Dolphin Pose/Ardha Pincha Mayurasana

Shoulder Strength

For my shoulders, I worked on dolphin pose (Ardha Pincha Mayurasana in sanskrit).  Since you’re nearly upside down in this pose, I found it helpful for building the muscles that I would need to flip all the way upside down.

Core Strength

For core strength, I worked on lots of plank variations– side plank, forearm plank, holding plank, etc.

Also, I tried this sort of C-shape pose, lifting my legs and head from the ground.  I listened to a podcast from The Yoga Talk Show with Lucas Rockwood.

C shape poses to build core strength

He recommended this pose for training your body to be long and straight for handstands.  As you can see in my handstand, the body can bend in backwards, rather than being perfectly stick straight.  This C shaped pose aims to correct that.

Preparatory Poses: L Shape Pose

Another great training pose for handstand is L-shape pose.  To measure for this position, sit on the floor with your feet out straight in front of you touching the wall.  Where your hips and hands hit the ground is where you want your hands to be when you are upside down instead.  With your hands in that place on the floor, walk your feet up the wall until your legs are parallel with the floor/perpendicular with the wall.  You want your body to be a 90 degree angle.  When you feel comfortable and confident in this position, try extending one leg at a time over your body in line with your body, as if you will go into handstand from there.

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Lucas also says it’s better to practice your handstands facing the wall.  That way you can walk your hands into the wall, gaining strength.  If you need to fall out of the handstand from this pose, it’s easy to let your body to fall to one side, supported (physically or emotionally) by the wall.

In teacher training, however, we practiced with our backs to the wall.  We practiced from standing, exhaling as you bend over your front leg and reach your hands to the floor, then inhaling as your feet extend up to the wall.

Preparatory Poses: Kicking Up

We also tried kicking up, starting with both hands on the floor.  This is harder because you can’t use as much momentum.  However, it’s good for building strength, confidence, and understanding of what straight really feels like.  If you kick up with just one leg, it’s nearly impossible to topple over the back, but you can still get a good feel for what it will be like when you are ready to try both legs.

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A few more handstand tips:

Spread your fingers to make a solid base for handstands
  • Try looking a little bit in front of your hands instead of at them
  • Spread your fingers for a nice solid base to support yourself
  • Stretch and strengthen your wrists so they can handle the weight of your body.  If your wrists are not flexible, try putting a small board or a thin book/notebook under the heel of your hand when you practice handstands
  • Press into the ground with your hands to engage your arms more
  • Squeeze your legs together like you’re trying to hold an apple between them
  • Keep working at it every day!

 

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Moments of Mindfulness; great book recommendation for meditations Thich Nhat Hanh

Moments of Mindfulness: Must-Have Meditation Book by Thich Nhat Hanh

I have a couple of books by Thich Nhat Hanh, but Moments of Mindfulness is my favorite.  It’s a set of 52 meditations, with the idea of having a new meditation to contemplate each week for a year.  Letting the words resonate within you for a full week leaves lots of room for insight and new understanding of the words and how they may apply to your life.  I’m going to share one of my favorite meditations from this book here

A flower
does not have to
do anything
to be of service,
it only has to be a flower.
That is enough.
A human being,
a true human being,
is enough
to make the whole world
rejoice

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The book also starts with a beautiful introduction on mindfulness; the true meaning and value of mindfulness, different ways to apply mindfulness to different aspects of your life, and miracles of mindfulness.  One of my favorite parts of the introduction is a breathing exercise.  I like to use parts of it in the warm-up for my yoga class, reminding yogis to relax and focus on their breathe and being present.

The book also has a nice spacious layout with soothing circular art accompanying each meditation.  It’s a nice size to hold too.

It’s a lovely little book!

Sacral chakra: functions, meditation, balance

Sacral Chakra: Feeling and Creativity: meaning, meditations, balancing, mantras, mudra

Everything you need to know about the Sacral Chakra- meaning, balancing, mantra, meditation, asana and moreThe second chakra is the Sacral Chakra, or the Svadhistana chakra in Sanskrit.  It is associated with the color orange and responsible for emotion, sensuality, creativity, pleasure and enjoyment.  It also helps with relating to others.  This chakra is also related to sexuality.  For this chakra, it’s important to connect feelings with the body, mind and spirit.  A person with a well-balanced sacral chakra feels empathy and warmth toward others.  They give in to urges of creativity.

Location and functions

The sacral chakra is located a couple inches below your belly button and in your sexual organs.  It is associated with the water element, which means it should be very fluid, especially with thoughts and emotions.  sacral chakra: location, functions, balancing, meditation and moreImbalances with this chakra can lead to too much or too little emotion or too much or too little sexual energy or desire.

Mantra

The seed mantra associated for the Svadhistana chakra is “Vam” or “Vang.”  Chanting this syllable aloud or internally can help you connect with this chakra and its functions.

Mudra

While meditating on this mantra, there are a couple of mudras you can try.  Make the Shakti mudra by tucking the thumbs into a fist under the first two fingers.
Bring the hands together so the ring and pinky fingers on both hands meet as the second knuckles of the pointer and middle fingers connect in their fists.  shakti mudraYou can hold the mudra in front of your heart or your sacral chakra.  Alternatively, try the dhyani mudra.  Stack your right hand on top of the left in your lap.  Bring the tips of the thumbs to meet so your hands connect in a full circle.

Affirmation

Each of the chakras also has an affirmation.  For the sacral chakra, you can remind yourself, “I feel.”
Think of physical sensual feelings and emotional, rich feelings.  Think of pleasure and creativity.  Feel all of it.

dhyani mudraMeditation

Also, you can try imagining an orange light glowing within your sacral chakra and radiating from it, warming, healing and nurturing your chakra.

Asanas

Hip opening yoga poses also help to balance the sacral chakra.  Lots of stress and tension are held in the hips and opening them relieves the joint and the emotions.  Try poses like half happy baby (ardha ananda balasana), pigeon (kapotasana), cow face pose (gomukasana), wide-angle seated forward bend (upavistha konasana), reclining bound angle pose (supta baddha konasana) and fire log pose (agnistambhasana).

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Orange

Also, surround yourself with orange to help this chakra– try wearing orange, eating orange foods (oranges, squash, pumpkin, etc) and working with orange stones or crystals (orange crystal, tourmaline, opal, carnelian, amber).

 

Balancing the sacral chakra is very important.  Creativity, understand feelings, relating to others are all crucial for being your best self in this life and really knowing yourself.

[Just so you know, this post contains affiliate links, meaning if you click through and purchase something I will receive a commission. I wouldn’t recommend it if I didn’t love it!]