June Pose of the Month
Adho Mukha Vrksasana - Handstand
Adho - (Downward) Mukha - (facing) Vrksa - (Tree) Asana - (Pose)
Level One Pose
June is the month of International Handstand Day which is held this year on Saturday 23rd of June. Summer time is a fabulous time to practice inversions and arm balance as we feel lighter and more playful. Handstand is one of those poses that look impressive but a little bit scary when you try to approach it yourself. It can take many years of practice to master handstand and as you can see I still use the wall after 7 years but its getting better and finding that balance point and holding it longer is gradually increasing!
Handstand is one of the hardest inversions to balance in because the only point of contact with the floor is your hands but it is one of the safest ones to learn and practice first because there is no weight on your head therefore less risk of damaging your neck. Handstand teaches you how to push the floor away therefore learning how to lift the weight of your body up and away from the floor which is highly important to understand if practicing headstand.
Everything that we have been doing in class over the last few months are all helpful tools to aid you in finding your version of handstand. Navasana (BoatPose) helped to build strength and awareness of your core, Virabhrasana 3 (Warrior 3) encouraged you find your balance and tipping point while on one leg and energising not just the standing leg but also the lifted leg (really important for Handstand) and Urdhva Prasrita Eka Padasna (Standing Splits) has also being teaching you how to root to rise and putting a little bit more weight in your hands and being upside down for a longer period of time. Understanding all of these things and putting them together is a really important part of practicing Handstand.
"You don't have to balance to do a handstand, you are still standing on your hands even if your feet are against the wall."
When first approaching handstand its a good idea to build strength in the arms and shoulders, strength is required before balance is possible, this is where the wall is going to become your best friend and this also allows you to spend a bit more time being upside down which can be disorienting at first but also where most of the amazing benefits of handstand come from. So have patience and work on strength first before worrying about even trying to balance... and here's a thought: You don't have to be able to balance to do a handstand, you are still standing on your hands even if your feet are against the wall, imagine that!
Ofcourse handstand isn't for everyone especially if you have a shoulder or wrist injury, carpel tunnel syndrome, high blood pressure, heart conditions and menstruation but there are always more gentle alternatives that you can take to still receive all the amazing benefits of an inversion. An inversion is when the heart is above your heart and is really important when it comes to the endocrine (hormonal) system as it forces an increased amount of blood flow to head.
A really nice alternative to handstand can be a supported downward facing dog (Adho Mukha Svanasana) where the top of your forehead (at the hairline) is in contact with a block. Another alternative is supported forward fold (uttanasana) at the wall, place your feet a foot or so away from the wall, hips on the wall and fold over your legs, press your sitbones into the wall and feet into the floor as your let your spine dangle from the hips. Legs up the wall or wide legged seated forward fold are also options that you can take if inverting doesn't appeal to you an any given day.
ENERGETIC AND EMOTIONAL BENEFITS
They make you feel happy - Elevates your mood by releasing endorphins the happy hormones
Calms the brain
Stimulates the Crown Chakra (Sahasrasra) which helps improve mental clarity and awareness
Builds core strength
Strengthens the upper body especially the arms and shoulders
Increases the health of the bones
Increases grip strength
Stimulates the Endocrine System (Hormonal and Gland System)
Stimulates the Thyroid Glands - these help to regulate the metabolism
Stimulates the Adrenal Glands therefore produces less of the stress hormone cortisol
Helps to regulate the Pituitary Gland which helps set a healthy weight for your body.
Stimulates the Lymphatic System which helps to reduce waste from the blood
Improves Digestion by reversing the effects of gravity helping to reduce stuck material and releases trapped gases, while also improving blood flow to the digestive organs.
Reversing the effects of gravity (e.g. compression and shortening of the spine)
Decreases fluid build up in legs, ankles and feet
Helps Prevent Osteoporosis
CAUTIONS AND CONTRAINDICATIONS
High blood pressure
Wrist or shoulder injury
HINTS AND TIPS
.Use a wall.
A belt can be useful if you find it difficult to keep your arms straight.
Grip the fingertips like you're trying to pick the floor up.
Hug legs together.
Engage the core.
Practice L shape (#3 above)
Practice keeping the lifted leg straight and strong as you practice hopping.
Have patience and practice practice practice.
Enjoy and have fun.