Fitness Friday Week 34: Beginning a Handstand Practice

Recently, one of the followers on my yoga for singers page asked me how to begin a handstand practice. In this video, I go through a few steps to get you into a handstand practice. Please take your time and move through the steps slowly without pushing yourself. It sometimes takes months or even years to build up the strength and balance to get into a full handstand. However, you can build a lot of strength simply by doing this prep work.

To begin: start in downward facing dog. Ground through your hands pressing into your finger pads, spreading your fingers, and suctioning through the center of your palms. Then raise one leg in the air while bending the other and start to kick up with the bent leg. Play around with kicking up both legs. Do several sets of these leg kicks and then rest. You might simply practice this for a few months.

Eventually, start kicking up near a wall and try to kick your straight leg up to that wall, bringing your other leg up as well. You can play with strengthening your arms in this wall-supported handstand.

If you want to branch out to playing in an unsupported handstand, bring one leg off the wall reaching straight up through the ball of your foot and stacking the ankle directly over the hip. Then, bend through the other leg placing the toes of the bent leg against the wall and play with floating those toes away from the wall for a few seconds before returning them.

Soon, you’ll be lifting both feet away from the wall.

Happy handstanding!

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A Weighty Question

When I was a little girl, one of my well-meaning relatives called me “thunder thighs.” Until the age of 16, I was severely overweight. A chubby girl who ate her feelings and spent more time with her nose in a book than on the playground, I grew up with severe body issues. With no friends and low self-esteem, I hid my body in baggy clothes and refused to look at myself in the mirror. Depressed, dejected, and on a path to obesity (and becoming the true “fat lady who sings”), at the age of 16, I decided I’d had enough and took charge of my body and my life. Slowly, I began to deal with my emotions and started to feel more comfortable in my own skin. I became determined to change my life. I started reading on the treadmill or stationary bike at the gym 3-5 days a week. I joined my mom in a weight watchers program. I went cold turkey from all soda and fast food and substituted herbal tea and portion controlled meals. A year (and 75 dropped pounds) later, I began my path towards health and happiness. At a time in my life when I was at my most emotionally vulnerable, I had the courage to believe in something greater. I could have continued to wallow in self-pity and hide from the world, or I could take the steps to drastically change my life. With each pound lost, I started to look in the mirror and see beauty and strength amongst the flaws. As the years went by, my weight fluctuated a bit–the stresses of performance degrees and long nights of studying took their toll on my body. But post-gradschool, as I found joy in my daily yoga practice and health through a gluten free, vegan diet, I am now happy with my small but mighty body. Yes, I’ve been on a diet for 12 years straight and have to be very careful of what I eat each day, but for the first time in my life, my body is happy and healthy. I enjoy my daily practices and challenges. I thrive on spending a few spare minutes of my day holding a handstand or plank pose. 

Weight and body image will always be a struggle for me. I may always feel like the chubby girl; but, with the help of my yoga practice, I am slowly starting to love my thunder thighs and the strength they provide. 

  #yogagivesbackchallenge day 15: laghuvajrasana/ little thunderbolt.