Commitment is probably the most challenging part to improving your handstand practice. It feels awesome to hear people say my handstands inspire them but i want to tell you, your greatest inspiration for standing on your hands will always be YOU. Once you see what you can do, you will re-inspire yourself again and again to explore more of what you are capable of. Then when you find something you aren’t able to do, you’ll have that back up strength, drive and confidence from all that stuff you know you can already do, so it won’t be long before you can do this too.
The truth is, commitments are so cussing hard (at least they are for me anyway…) and it doesn’t take just one commitment to improve upon your handstands, it takes many.
You gotta commit to accept everything, to be totally cool with yourself as you are, in every moment of your practice. Commit to imperfection, to falling, to failure. You have to commit knowing you could get hurt, you can always get hurt. You have to commit to celebrating baby wins. Commit to possibility. Commit to “it doesn’t matter if it looks pretty”. Commit to taking pictures to celebrate your victories but more importantly so that you can see room for improvement. Commit to control. Commit to patience. Commit to working through frustration. Commit to ending your handstand practice when you finally nail something you’ve been working for even if it cuts your practice short — use the time you would have practiced to celebrate somehow later in the day, just to keep the truth in your head that YOU DID IT. Commit to returning to your practice tomorrow. Commit to falling on your face, falling flat on your back, and commit to picking yourself back up. Commit to feeling disappointed in yourself when you don’t practice. But, commit to being light hearted with yourself since your committing to practice something hella hard #everydamnday. Commit to control (i know i already mentioned that). Commit to control, commit to control, commit to control to minimize risk of injury. Only do what you are ready for but do take yourself to exhaustion in a safe way. Commit to play, play everyday if you can. Commit to hard work. And commit to continuously stoking the fire within you — you know you can do this — because you can, you just have to fucking COMMIT.
I also wrote about what it takes to commit — check out Motivation to Move
Pull In, Push Down, & Stretch Up
When you’re NOT practicing handstands, THINK handstands. While arm balancing, you need to be able to PULL your core IN, PUSH DOWN into the ground, and STRETCH UP. And these 3 tiny little things, take a great amount of effort. So… start practicing. This video demonstrates just 4 poses. You can THINK handstand at any time in any active pose (i think… i haven’t tested this).
The video starts with Mountain pose: 1. PULL IN – you are basically flexing your abs as hard as you can but think about pulling in rather then squeezing. First squeeze your abs in as hard as you can, then from deep within your spine, pull the whole ab region in tighter, like you’re trying to condense yourself into the most solid firm trunk possible.
Immediately after pulling everything in, 2. PUSH DOWN and 3. STRETCH UP simultaneously – in your feet, with ALL of your might from both of your legs, push down into your feet. Every muscle in your legs firm and holding strong. Hips stay steady. Stretch your spine from your hips to the top of your neck as long as possible. Deep within the core, use the muscles surrounding your spine, to STRETCH your back straight UP through the tip top crown of your head.
After trying this you might be thinking “handstanding is easier than this!” and you might be right, but THIS prepares your body for THAT. Bring this into your yoga practice so that when you get the chance to catch some hang time in class, your body is prepared, your muscles are alert and active, ready to fire at will.
These practices are great for short term preparation to practice handstands AND for long term continued use of the muscles it takes to stand on your hards for longer amounts of time.
… i almost forgot to mention, use this when you practice handstands! when you’re upside down, PULL IN, PUSH DOWN, AND STRETCH UP for as long as you can, as often as you can. You will be able to feel when you’re muscles become too fatigued to do this and start letting go — remember, the less control you have of your body the higher the risk of injury. Keep wearing yourself out so that you feel fatigued, but practice safely so that you can continue to practice.
Wrist Warm up Exercises
These exercises should wear you the cuss out, if they don’t use more power! Squeeze until you cramp or shake, put as much effort in as you possible can.
1. Controlled articular rotations (CARs) start with you arms straight forward about shoulder height. Squeeze to keep arms firm and elbows straight. Palms face away fingertips point down. Squeeze and hold the position at your end range. Starting with the finger tips, slowly start to curl your fingers up into fists. Then roll the fists over top of the wrist and pull the palm / fist towards the underside of your wrist as firmly as possible. Keep this palm to wrist hold and rotate the fists in towards one another continuing the rotation until you can’t rotate anymore. Squeeze at that end range then slowly return the back until inner elbows are pointing up. Extend the wrists back out palm facing away and unclench the fingers last. Without going limp, repeat (3 reps total).
2. Passive to active end range wrist extension. Take your hands together in front of your chest like prayer hands then slide your right hand up so the palm of your right hand is pressing into the fingers of your left. Push right palm into the fingers and create a deep passive (meaning you are doing no work with the left wrist) stretch as far as you can comfortably go and hold for 5-10 seconds. Slowly pull your right palm away from the left fingers but keep your left hand in that same position without your right hand doing the work, squeeze with all your might to HOLD that position for 5-10 seconds. Slowly return the palm of the right hand to the fingers of the left and create that passive pressure once again. Relax the left wrist completely, stay for 5-10 seconds and repeat 5 times. When finished switch wrists and work the right.
3. Passive to active end range wrist flexion. Same as 2 but now flex the left wrist with the fingers pointing straight down. Palm of the right hand meets the back of the left hand. Just like the last exercise push the pal of your right hand into the back of the left creating pressure as hard as you can comfortably push and hold 5–10 seconds. Slowly pull the palm away from the back of hand but hold the left wrist position with ALL of your might. Make yourself shake you are trying to hard. Hold 5-10 seconds then repeat (3 reps total).
4. Active end range wrist extension. Position yourself on all 4s hands shoulder width apart, fingers separated. Push down with ALL of your might from your arms, palms, base of the fingers, middle finger knuckles and finger tips. EVERYTHING is pushing down, while you lean into this wrist flexion with your shoulders pressing over or past your wrists. Hold the press for 15 seconds then without shifting your weight and with all of your might, pull the back of the hands and fingers away from the ground. Tip your shoulders back towards your feet ONLY enough for your palm to lift off the floor 1 centimeter. Hold for 15 seconds trying not to let your palm touch the floor. Repeat until you have pushed down 3 times and pulled back 3 times (it should take 1 min and 30 seconds on a stop watch).
5. Active end range wrist flexion. Position yourself on all 4s or something similar but turn the palms of the hands to face up with the backs of the hands on the floor near or around your knees. *** Note: you might need a yoga mat, or folded towel between the back of your hand and a hard floor. Push down with ALL of your might into the floor with the backs of your hands. Keep your arms straight and hold for 15 seconds. Keeping the same position pull your palms upward, away from the floor. Attempting to keep a flat hand, lean your shoulders forward just enough for the backs of the hands to lift off the floor. Hold tight for 15 seconds then return your shoulders back to the previous position and begin pushing the backs of the hands into the ground. Repeat until you have pushed down 3 times and pulled up 3 times (it should take 1 min and 30 seconds on a stop watch).
Do these exercises as often as you can. At least once a day, best before attempting handstands. I also use them between sets of other exercises in my handstand practice. The more the better and feel free to play with the angles of your arms, wrists and hands i.e. arms over your head, fingers turned out. continuously try to strengthen your wrists if you plan to play with putting your entire body’s weight into your hands and then holding it for any significant amount of time.
Most importantly, give your wrists time to strengthen and gain flexibility on their own terms. Don’t push them too far too fast.
Downward Facing Push-ups
My aim is handstand push-ups but i have a looooooog way to go. So in the mean time, I’ll work towards them using some downward facing dog push-ups for a while. This video just shows 3 variations of down dog push-ups. Because they are not easy, you can start to feel the work from your knees and work your way up to your hands like i did in this video. You can also use a block if you know you cannot go down to the floor and change the height of the block according to your current abilities.
Keep your wrists and elbows stationary but bend the elbows to lower the head and shoulders forward. If you try a variation with your hands out wide, this probably wont work the same but you can use your own judgement on how to move through the position as long as you remember to CONTROL THE MOVEMENT. That’s really what it is all about, controlling this movement will help you in your quest to stand on your hands.