Anyone who has attempted a handstand knows that it takes a lot of core strength and balance to keep from toppling over. While it may look like an easy feat, mastering the handstand requires a lot of work and practice. In addition to work on core strength, it is also important to strengthen the back and increase flexibility. Here's part 2 of the routine that you can help to prepare the body for a handstand.
1. Suptapadangushtasana or Hand to big toe pose -
This is a great pose to extend the back and prepare the legs for handstand. Begin lying down in suptatadasan or supine mountain pose with your thighs pressing down and feet alert. Place the yoga belt over the arch of the right foot and straighten the leg. Maintain the contact of the left leg with the mat. With both legs straight, focus on pushing the right thigh away from your face while pulling the right foot closer towards you. Hold for anywhere from a few breaths to a couple of minutes. Release, then repeat on the other side.
2. Urdvaprasaritapadasan or Upward Extended Feet Pose -
This pose prepare the abdomen to stay soft yet firm for handstands. Begin lying down in suptatadasan or supine mountain pose with your thighs pressing down and feet alert. Place the yoga belt over the archs of both feet. Exhale and straighten both legs towards the ceiling so that your body is in a right angel. Keep the abdomen soft and firm. Hold for 6-8 breaths and then release. Repeat 3-5 times.
You can also try a more dynamic version of this pose with out the belt. Start in the same position but lift your arms over your head behind you. Lift your legs slowly to 90 degrees while keeping them straight, hold for a couple of breaths. Bring them back slowly down on the mat, barely touch down and lift up again in a flow. Repeat this action 8-10 times.
3. Urdhva Mukha Svanasana or Upward-Facing Dog Pose -
The Upward-Facing Dog strengthens your spine, arms, and wrists and therefore is a recommended pose to include in your practice while approaching handstand. Start in a prone position on your mat with your feet hip-distance apart and your hands placed beside your lower ribs. Extend your legs one at a time on the mat and and press down from the thighs to the toes. Press down with your hands, curl your toes in and engage your thighs. Inhale and arching, lift up your torso from the mat by straightening your arms. Draw your shoulders back while pressing down with your palms. Hold for 5 breaths, then release. Repeat 3 -4 times.
4. Adhomukhaswanasan or Downward-Facing Dog Pose -
This is fabulous to prepare the arms and legs while opening and strengthening the shoulders. The extra length the hamstrings and calves experience is a good place to be before handstand. Start on on all your fours with your hands and knees shoulder width apart. Spread your palms well, place them below your shoulder and turn your toes inwards. Exhale and lift your knees off the floor, while opening the back of your knees and thighs as you straighten your legs. Lift your tailbone up towards the ceiling and push your thighs back as you extend your heels toward the floor. Roll your arms outwards while lifting your elbows. Keep your shoulder blades firm and shoulder broad. Stay in the pose for 10 or more breaths, then exhale and lower yourself into child's pose. Repeat 2-3 times.
5. Ardha purvottanasana or reverse half tabletop pose -
While this is a challenging pose, it helps to open the chest and tone the lower back while also building the arms, legs and core body strength for hand stand. Begin seated on your matwith your legs bent in front of you and your hands next to your hips, with the palms pointing forward. Keep 8-10'' space between your feet to begin with. Move your palms back a few inches and slowly and firmly, lift your hips off the floor and lift your chest and torso upward. Keep your neck aligned with the rest of your spine. Hold for 6-8 breaths, then slowly release your hips back on to the mat. Repeat 2-3 times.
6. Purvottanasana or reverse tabletop pose -
Once you have tried the half tabletop pose a few times, work on Reverse tabletop pose as a precursor to handstand. Start with being seated on your matwith your legs extended straight in front of you and your hands next to your hips, with the palms pointing forward. Keep your feet together to begin with. Move your palms back a few inches and slowly and firmly, lift your hips off the floor as you point the toes towards the mat and bring your feet to grip on the mat. Lift your chest and torso upward. Keep your neck aligned with the rest of your spine. Hold for 6-8 breaths, then slowly release your hips back on to the mat. Repeat 2-3 times.
This dynamic posture allows your spine to find some mobility in a quiet position. Come in a tabletop position, keeping the knees under hips and wrists under shoulders. As you inhale, start to sweep the chest forward, opening up the throat, arching the back and lifting the hips up. On exhalation, start rounding the spine toward the ceiling and allowing that movement to happen all the way down to the spine. Lift the upper, middle and lower spine and start drawing the crown of the head down towards the floor. Flow through Cat and Cow, with every in-breath and out-breath. Move through this flow for as long as it feels good and comfortable.