You—yes, you—can work up to a yoga handstand in just a few weeks.

By Cassie Shortsleeve
September 16, 2019

Every year, we all make similar New Year's resolutions, pre-summer get-healthy plans, and back-to-school goals. No matter the time of year, they tend to be about holding ourselves accountable for our health—finally dropping those last few pounds, making the gym an actual habit, trying to stop eating out so much...Sometimes, though, the *best* resolutions are the more positive ones: mastering a new skill, building strength, testing your mental endurance.

But what if you quite literally turned your health goal on its head?

Enter Heidi Kristoffer, a New York-based yoga instructor, and creator of CrossFlowX who suggests that yogis (and any workout buff, really) try their hand(s) at a full-out, free-standing handstand. (But no, she does *not* want you doing any headstands.)

Too freaky, you say? "In my experience, the limiting factor is your brain," says Kristoffer. After all, handstands involve overcoming fear. "It is human nature to want to be in control. Being upside-down feels out of control, which is why it's so scary for so many people," she explains. Also? "Most of us believe we need others supporting us in pretty much everything we do. A handstand is you supporting yourself with your own two hands. When you master that, it's incredibly empowering." (There are more handstand benefits, too!)

Acing the handstand challenges both your mind and body (calling for core strength, shoulder mobility, and proper alignment) and builds confidence in return. But how do you do a yoga handstand, you ask?

The 3-Week Handstand Plan

This three-week plan from Kristoffer contains one core strength move, one shoulder mobility move, and one handstand prep move each week. Soon, you'll have more strength, confidence, and willpower than you realize—maybe even enough to tackle that 'go out to eat less' goal. Maybe. (Not a yogi? Here's another way to learn how to do a handstand.)

Follow this three-week cycle then test your handstand at the end.

Yoga Handstand Week One

Do the moves below once a day, every day.

Core Strength: Plank Hold

Start in high plank position, keeping toes tucked and shoulders and wrists in line, fingers spread out. Press into knuckles of forefingers and thumbs. Do not lock elbows.

Hold for 30 seconds. Progress to holding for 1 or 2 minutes. Challenge yourself even more by lifting the opposite leg and arm off the ground at the same time and holding it there.

Shoulder Mobility: Wall Shoulder Opener

Stand facing a wall at arm's distance. Plant palms on the wall at face height, shoulder-width apart. Slowly drop torso, keeping palms connected; relax your head between arms and relax your shoulders. (You'll know it's working as your chest continues releasing toward the ground.)

Hold 30 seconds to 1 minute.

Handstand Prep: Crow Pose

Begin in mountain pose (standing tall) with feet hip-width apart and arms by sides. Sit back into chair pose with arms diagonally forward and up, biceps by ears. Maintaining this position, lift heels off the floor, shifting weight slightly forward, and flexing wrists so palms face forward. Slowly lean forward to place your palms on the floor in front of feet, either connecting knees to armpits or squeezing knees outside upper arms. Rock weight forward into palms, look forward, and lift feet off floor—hold for a second or two if you can. Lower feet back to floor and return to chair pose.

Repeat, moving from crow to chair 10 times.

Yoga Handstand Week Two

Do the series below at least 5 times a week.

Core Strength: Core Roll-Backs

Start lying face-up, arms overhead, palms facing up, and legs extended. Squeeze legs together and ground the lower back into the floor to slowly lift legs up to point toward the ceiling. Engage abs to curl legs toward face, trying to tap toes on the floor behind your head. Slowly roll legs back up and then lower legs so heels to hover just above the ground to return to start.

Repeat for 1 to 2 minutes.

Shoulder Mobility: Windmill Shoulder Rolls

Stand with feet hip-width apart. Reach arms straight up overhead and 'swim' arms (like you're doing the freestyle), so one is in front of your body while the other is behind. Keep shoulders down, away from ears.

Repeat for 30 seconds. Pause, then reverse for 30 seconds. 

Handstand Prep: Reverse Double L Handstand at Wall

Measure a leg's distance away from the wall to determine where to put your hands on the ground. Face away from the wall on all fours with hands shoulder-width apart on the ground. Walk feet up the wall until your body forms an "L" position, letting head fall toward the ground. Keep shoulders stacked directly above wrists. If you feel steady, play with lifting one leg at a time straight up toward the ceiling.

Hold 30 seconds to 1 minute.

Yoga Handstand Week Three

Do the series below at least 5 times a week.

Core Strength: Plank to Superhero Plank Reps

Start in high plank pose with hands directly under shoulders. Bring right hand forward, then left hand forward, so arms are stretched out at least 12 inches from where they started. Return to plank.

Repeat for 30 seconds, leading with the right hand. Switch sides; repeat.

Shoulder Mobility: Seated Forward Bend Kriya

Sit with legs together, extended in front of you with feet flexed. Inhale to reach arms straight up, then exhale to sweep them forward over legs, reaching for toes, only going as low as is comfortable.

Repeat rapidly for 1 minute.

Handstand Prep: Split Handstand

Measure a leg's distance away from the wall and lower into a forward fold facing the wall. Press palms firmly into the ground at that spot. Lift the left leg toward the ceiling, coming high onto the ball of the right foot. Reaching up with the left leg, transfer weight onto hands and hop off right foot until you're upside down or until your left foot taps the wall, keeping legs split for balance. Keep arms straight, not locked. Use fingertips as brakes to press back if you feel you're going to fall (like you might push yourself backwards in plank).

Do 3 to 5 split handstand drills.

Do Your Full Yoga Handstand

It's easy to pull a hamstring, back, or shoulder muscle if you go too hard and fast into a handstand (especially if you're not warmed up). Instead of relying instead on luck and momentum, think about entering a handstand as more about proper positioning and technique—which is why Kristoffer suggests starting your full handstand just like you'd start the split handstand.

Eventually, you'll determine a distance that allows you to kick up and never touch the wall, but having it as a safety net at first is helpful, she says. Once you don't need the wall, use your core, internally rotate thighs, and reach both feet up straight. Squeeze legs together and engage your core. Carefully, come down the way you came up, one foot at a time, she says. When you have it super under control (and are flexible enough), you can try falling out of your handstand into a wheel.

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