Handstand has become a very popular pose - both in yoga classes and on social media.
Handstand is a very empowering, strengthening, grounding and energizing pose. Anyone with a regular handstand practice will agree that handstand can help to elevate your mood and build self confidence. For me, practicing handstand helps to bring me into the present moment. The moment my hands touch the floor and I lift my feet into the air, I find a place of peace and balance. This has become a very powerful part of my yoga practice.
Here are the top 5 reasons why you may choose to practice handstand (or any inversion for that matter).
1. It is relatively safer than some of the other inversions
I love headstand and shoulder stand but studies are continuing to come out about the dangers of balancing on your head or neck due to the pressure placed on the cervical spine. Handstand, while more challenging in the beginning, has a wider shelf and if practiced correctly can help to build strength and stamina in the body.
2. It brings you into the present moment
The breath is so key to balancing in a handstand. If you hold your breath then it is like being under water. You can only stay under so long before you have to come up for air! When you breathe, the body starts to adjust and engage the proper muscles to balance in the pose.
3. It builds strength in the upper body
So many people ask me why they cannot do a handstand. Oftentimes, I see weaknesses in their Chatturunga and Downward Facing Dog. These two poses, when practiced with precision and mindfulness, are great for building the upper body strength necessary to practice handstand.
4. It teaches you the power of patience
Our minds and egos can get very frustrated if we are not sticking our handstand after the first few yoga classes. I always remind my students that it takes up to two years to learn how to walk, and it may take that long to longer to learn how to stand on your hands. It requires constant discipline and focus. We must be patient with ourselves as we build the necessary strength and learn how to balance upside down.
5. It is empowering!
Handstands really help you to conquer some deep seeded fears. Oftentimes we can find ourselves afraid of falling down or getting hurt. I always recommend to figure out a way to fall out of the pose so you have an exit strategy. Once you do stick that handstand in the center of the room there is no feeling quite like it - you feel amazing. Then, of course, you must let it go for all things are temporary and it is, at the end of the day, just a pose.
I find handstand to be a very revealing pose. It teaches me where I am at and how I am feeling that day. If I feel energized and light, then I am playing upside down quite a bit. If I am feeling low and insecure, then I find myself staying close to the ground. It is nice to witness and observe the mind+body connection as you start to play with this pose. One of my favorite quotes is "self observation without judgment is the highest form of enlightenment" - I love this because it frees us up to enjoy the playfulness of the pose without getting too caught up on performing it "right". You are right where you need to be. Keep practicing and enjoy the journey!
Ali Owens is a world renowned yoga teacher in Los Angeles with weekly classes at Equinox, Yoga Salt, The Green Yogi, Unplug Meditation, and YogaWorks.
Ali is leading the SYB Retreat to Costa Rica - January 10-15, 2017. CHECK OUT COSTA RICA.