Dearest Handstand – Downward Facing Tree Pose/Adho Mukha Vrksasana

Dearest handstand,

Oh, how I love you so. You do more than fill my heart with happiness- you brighten up my smile, expand my cells with excitement, and add sparkle to my blood. You are one of the greatest sources of joy in my life, and yet, I know what the flip side of the relationship is like with you, too. Sometimes, when a certain form of you eludes me, I feel frustrated, doubtful, and discouraged. When I’m expecting something that isn’t there, isn’t quite ripe in my possibility, skill, and understanding yet, it gets easy to blame you for being “too hard” or me for being “incapable.” But I’ve learned over the years of befriending you that those feelings of frustration are gifts of your practice as well. You teach me patience, willingness, curiosity, determination, and most of all: practice. For if I don’t get on my mat and try to do what it is I am trying to do, you shall always be left undone. So thank you, dear handstand, for being both a great teacher of possibility and a comrade of joy. May you inspire the lives of others the way you have mine!




-Ground your hands firmly into the mat, spreading your fingers like miming “number 5.” Root your knuckle mounds (where your fingers and palms meet) strongly down.

-Stack your shoulders over your wrists with your wrist creases parallel to the top edge of your mat. Stacking your bones will help your balance greatly, as well as aid the work of your muscles and joints.

-Keep your index (pointer) finger knuckle mound grounded the most. Rotate your arms externally so your triceps muscles turn back toward your legs. This is the same work in the arms that you may be familiar with from Downward Facing Dog. By default, your biceps muscles will turn more toward the front of your mat. Keep a minor softness in your elbows if you have the tendency/ability to lock (hyperextend) your elbows.

-Draw your shoulders away from your ears so your neck and upper back are broad, again like the familiar actions of Down Dog.

-Tilt your gaze between your thumbs, or just a few inches beyond. Looking TOO far forward can cause “banana back” or a large arching of the lower spine. Looking far forward is used in Scorpion variations of inversions, so start by keeping your gaze more downward for balance.

-From a shortened Down Dog, LIFT YOUR HEELS HIGH (this is KEY!) and raise your “lead leg.” This is the leg that feels most natural to you. You can eventually create fluency in both legs leading, but start with what feels most solid to you.

-Bend your standing knee and take tiny hops, just getting the lower foot off the ground. This is a handstand! Be proud! Eventually, hop high enough that your HIPS STACK OVER YOUR SHOULDERS. Balance with the legs split, and eventually pull the bottom leg slowly up to meet the top.

-Draw your ribs and lower belly (belly button area) in toward your spine.

-Squeeze your legs together and spread your toes apart.


Hanna Riley,

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