There's always at least one person in your yoga class who can kick straight up into a handstand and just chill there. (Just like NYC-based trainer Rachel Mariotti, who's demoing it here.) No, she's not a unicorn—and you can totally be her someday. Build up to this challenging pose, and you'll reap all the tone-all-over benefits of handstands, plus the satisfaction of finally achieving it.
"Balancing on your hands is a different journey for everyone," says Heather Peterson, chief yoga officer at CorePower Yoga. "Make small strides over time by committing to working on this pose each time you practice." Eventually, you'll feel stronger and empowered both physically and mentally, she says. (More on that here: 4 Amazing Health Benefits of Handstands)
Many yoga teachers will give handstand as an option during class. Instead of always shying away, give it a try! And don't let fear stop you from trying this full-body exercise. You can always start by using a wall to support you, then move farther away, suggests Peterson. (Try this step-by-step breakdown of moves to help you get ready for handstand.)
Afterwards, reward yourself with a restorative pose like child's pose to return to your breath and release any judgments about your performance. (Yoga is supposed to be kind of relaxing, remember?)
Handstand Benefits and Variations
This pose is empowering because it helps you find balance both internally and externally. You'll achieve—literally—a new perspective. While it may seem like a purely upper-body move, it also requires core and inner thigh strength to kick up and remain balanced. Another major handstand benefit is that it's a practice in body awareness—you'll realize that the smallest adjustments can make the biggest difference. Remember to be patient with yourself: This pose is about the journey, not the nailing it in one practice, says Peterson.
If you have wrist or elbow pain, try practicing forearm stand instead. For shoulder pain, modify by practicing supported headstand with blocks at your shoulders and at a wall. Once you feel comfortable with the traditional handstand, try splitting your legs and walking over into wheel pose.
How to Do a Handstand
A. From downward facing dog, step feet in about halfway and lift right leg up.
B. Shift weight into hands and shift shoulders over wrists, bringing gaze in front of fingertips.
C. Start by lifting the left heel up and down, coming onto left toes. Then raise the right leg up even higher by engaging hamstrings and glutes.
D. Shift hips over shoulders to find a hover with the left foot off the floor. Lower down and repeat until both feet are together over hands, forming a straight line from toes to wrists. (This five-minute yoga flow can help you practice kicking up into a handstand.)
Handstand Form Tips
- Even though you likely have a preference for one side, repeat on the opposite leg to balance out.
- Engage your core to avoid a "banana" shape where your chest puffs out and feet fall back overhead.