This Is Why Yogis SHOULD Handstand

This Is Why Yogis SHOULD Handstand

When I was in an inversion workshop, the instructor started by telling us that handstands were more about changing your perspective than an acrobatic feat to be achieved. I rolled my eyes and thought yeah yeah … just show me how to nail the perfect handstand!

I think her exact words were,

When you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change.

Basically: when life gets hard, when you don’t understand, or when you’ve generally spent too much time throwing your hands into the air in exhausted surrender… get upside down.

Though I might have rolled my eyes at the time, she was right. Handstands are so much more than a difficult asana pose. The benefits far surpass anything gained from merely getting into the posture or showing off your skills on Instagram.

Handstands are an incredibly powerful way to see the world through new eyes. They are emblematic of the transformation that comes after a revival in perspective. They are all about seeing things in a new way that is lifegiving and laced with the energy of renewal. Turning your whole world upside down gives you the space to re-imagine your purpose, your values, your life.

Though handstands were not one of the original 15 hatha yoga postures, they are an integral part of a sturdy asana practice for a reason. This pose engages the whole body and works synergistically to deliver benefits to both body and mind. It is not clear exactly when headstands and handstands made their way into our modern yoga practice. However, it is widely accepted that handstands have not been around since the “dawn of yoga time,” (5,000 years ago!).

The Sanskrit scholar and hatha yoga teacher Norman Sjoman wrote a book called The Yoga Tradition of the Mysore Palace. This book was an unearthing of an earlier text, originating from the 1800s called Sritattvanidhi. The Sritattvanidhi holds extremely elaborate descriptions and illustrations of poses compared to other pre-twentieth century texts. It includes instructions for 122 yoga poses that are practiced regularly in Hatha and Ashtanga practices today, including backbends, lotus variations, foot-behind-the-head poses, and you guessed it, handstands!

Some believe that handstands are a twentieth-century integration as yoga has become increasingly focused on strength and mastery of alignment, but this text suggests that handstands have been a part of a dynamic yoga practice for over a century.

When you strip it down, there are two major blocks keeping yogis from getting into handstands consistently.

First, they do not take the time to build up the necessary arm and shoulder strength and the second major block is they do not trust their body enough to get their hips over their head.

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I think we can all agree that handstands bring up a universal fear: being upside down is scary. It is easy to feel out of control and topple over backwards.

Most of us spend our whole lives trying to remain in control. We do anything to avoid situations where we have to voluntarily relinquish this iron grip. Handstands require an outstanding amount of courage and trust, not only in our own body’s ability to remain centered, but that the ground will be there to catch us when we fall.

So, if it is so scary, why even try it?

To put it simply, handstands have several potent health benefits. On a physical level, rooting through your hands to support yourself while upside down reverses the effects of gravity on the body.

Being upside-down releases the compression of the spine and also increases overall blood flow to the head, which delivers several mental health benefits. It has been found that increased blood flow to the brain re-energizes the mind.

Handstands have also been linked to relief of stress and mild depression.

Spiritually, handstands deliver many benefits. This pose is connected to the crown chakra which has a profound effect on mental clarity and spiritual awareness. Perspective changing, indeed!

Therefore, you should give handstands a try.

And contrary to what social media has led you to believe, you do not have to nail your handstand every time to be an established yogi!

Before you try, there are 7 things I want you to know:

  1. Handstands are uncomfortable and fear-inducing.
  2. Handstands are difficult to master.
  3. It’s okay to be in a ‘practice’ state for weeks, months, or even years.
  4. It’s normal to fluctuate between ‘nailing it’ and falling over backwards.
  5. Balance is fluid, so is your yogic journey.
  6. Falling will not hurt as bad as you think.
  7. Anyone can nail the perfect handstand with a little determination, some concentrated practice, and a lot of grace.

So maybe you give it a try, and maybe you just get into wheel pose, taking time for conscious breathe while you’re upside down. This is what yoga is all about. Placing your heart over your head. Allowing yourself to see life in a new way, to be renewed by the unity of breath and movement. To commit to the ancient yogic goal of awakening. To commit to presence.

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