Handstand (Downward Facing Tree Pose) - Advanced Inversionah-doh moo-kah virk-SHAHS-anna
Adho (अधस्)= Downward
Mukha (मुख) = Face
Vrksa (वृक्ष)= Tree
Asana (आसन) = Pose, Posture, Seat
One of the most powerful poses in yoga is the handstand. This posture can invoke pure joy and a sense of freedom when mastered, while even thinking about attempting it may induce fear for others. Our bodies are calibrated to an upright standing world. As such, literally turning our worlds upside down to balance on our hands carries a rage of challenges across the physical, mental and emotional spectrum. Once we understand the foundations of a handstand, it is actually quite accessible. Contrary to what many might think, the handstand is a physically safer option than some other inversions such as headstand or forearm stand. That said, any inversion should initially be learned under the direction of a qualified instructor to help guide the student through safe practices.
One of the main obstacles in handstand is the fear of falling. Fear is not a bad thing in and of itself, the fear can help us cultivate accurate self assessment and encourage us to work the foundations and progressions to build the necessary physical strength and the confidence to explore the full pose. On the other side of it, fear can become an irrational blockade to trying inversions. There are students who clearly have all of the necessary physical tools and have the safety of a spotter or a clear wall and will still have a mental shutdown with inversions. It is another strong reason to train progressively as we need to build up deposits in the bank of personal trust to have the emotional safety to work on this type of skill. In many ways this pose is a more advanced mental and emotional posture than it is a physical one.
Handstand training takes time and consistency to master. It is the posture of constant evolution and refinement. This pose that has been adopted by the yoga practice has many roots in acrobatics, gymnastics, circus, calisthenics, and cheer-leading. The current international standard for a handstand in the acrobatic community and beyond holds the handstand in a straight line. This was not always the case. In “Light on Yoga” by B.K.S. Iyengar, you will not find a straight handstand. His handstand is quite arched in the back and the handstand is used as more of a transition from wheel pose or as a pause in the jump forward. The same is true for the ashtanga lineage. Handstand in ashtanga is used more as a transition than it is practiced as a static posture. For our purposes in this round we will look only at the straight line static handstand.
How to do Adho Mukha Vrksasana- Handstand
Notes on Variations and ModificationsThere are many variations of handstands that will come off of the straight line. We train the straight line so that we may choose to come off the line with control for other inspire variations rather than ending up off our line by default.
Additional Variations may include:
Hollow Back Handstand
One Arm Handstand
Leg Variations- Tuck, Straddle, Pike, Eagle, Lotus, Stag, etc.
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