Oh handstand, what a long strange journey it has been! Handstand is one of those poses which people strive for in their practice and it really does feel amazing when you get that floating upside down hold. Handstands for me have been a long journey. LONG! It is a pose that has only really become accessible to me in the last couple of months, sure I could kick up before, maybe hover for a couple of seconds but holding it and feeling stable? That's something new! Whenever I post a video on Instagram I always get a lot of questions about handstand so I thought I would put a few tips into a blog post for you.
1. Exploration and playtime.
Yes you might have the goal of hanging upside down on your hands but the journey is key. Let go of the idea of what you think the handstand should look like and focus on what feels good. Explore in your practice, play around with little kicks but don't stress of get over tired. If you feel yourself lagging let it go,. come into a nice easy going forward fold and breathe. If you start bringing stress into your practice then your whole body will tense up. Go with the flow, follow your breath and the handstand will follow. Maybe not today or tomorrow but it will. Trust me!
2. Spider fingers.
For me I like to hand my hands slightly wider that shoulder width, I keep a micro bend in my elbows (again coming back to free and easy) and my fingers are spidered out. Imagine a star fish - fingers are spread wide - but you also want to have movement in the fingers. Think about putting your hands into wet sand and then squeezing that sand between your fingers, that is what you are looking for in your hands. Once I got the hang of it this was an absolute game changer for me.
3. Keep the legs split.
If you think about a seesaw always moving back and forwards imagine your legs like this. It is a lot easier to find the balance and stay there with split legs and I'm all for making hard things easy! You can start with keeping one foot in towards your bum and one leg extended then maybe play with both legs being extended. A handstand doesn't mean you have to have your legs perfectly straight - let go of any idea of perfection and just play!
4. Practice other inversions.
Headstands and headstand flows are a great way to build the shoulder and core strength you need for a handstand so don't neglect the basics. Same goes for forearm stand, play around with variations, new ways of gripping the hands, playing around with your legs when you are upside down. This way you will also build the confidence that you need to prepare yourself for handstand.
5. Hips and hamstrings.
The more time I took to slow down and linger in hamstring and hip openers the more it benefited my handstands so don't forget to work on your flexibility as well as your strength. It takes a lot of flexibility to be able to stack the hips over the shoulders, to lower down with control and to find balance. Wide legged forward fold is one of my favourite prep poses for handstand - I like to walk my hands over to one foot then bend one knee and then the other, breathe and then switch sides. PS: Try this video for hips and hamstrings.
So those are a few tips that I have found helped me along my handstand journey. Are my handstands perfect? No! Are they mine? Yes! Can I just pop into one? Nope. I need to be warmed up. Some of my best handstands actually come after leading classes or after running - my muscles need to be warmed up and my core switched on. Breathe, stay easy and take your time - there is no rush with handstand or any of the poses - keep your body easy and moving fluidly and the rest will follow. Keep practising and have fun!