By Ravelle Worthington
Remember when you were a kid and would show off your sweet handstand skills? (For me it was more like trying to kick my legs up in the air before I quickly flopped over.) Turns out your 12-year-old self may have been onto something all along—inversions (any pose that gets your heart or feet above your head) can have amazing health benefits.
For starters, when done properly and with correct alignment, you engage your entire upper body, back, and core during a headstand, says Serena Tom, instructor at Pure Yoga, Brick New York, and Sacred Sounds Yoga. Handstands and headstands also help blood move more easily through your body, while stimulating the pituitary and hypothalamus glands. How this translates to the rest of us: It helps maintain the chemical balance in our bodies. Of course, you also look pretty badass while doing one.
Another benefit? Learning to fall. Yes—fall. “This sounds crazy, but handstands have helped me the most with falling,” says Maddy Curley, a former gymnast turned CrossFit coach. “Have you ever tripped or taken a tumble and then that crash hurt every part of your body? Well, with these inversion moves you’ll learn how to roll out of one without crashing to your back, shoulders, or head.”
Ready to give it a try? Whether you’re heading to yoga class or to the nearest wall in your own home, we’ve got five tips to get you headstand- or handstand-ready:
1. Warm up and prepare. “If you have weak wrists, your handstands will also be weak,” says Tom. Try this: On your hands and knees, flip your hands so that the backs touch the floor, palms up, fingers facing your knees. Hold for 5 seconds, then release. To warm up your shoulders, press your palms against a wall, folding over at the hips into a 90-degree angle. Lengthen your butt away from the wall to extend your spine, then release.
2. Use the wall. For beginners, face away from a wall, place your hands on the ground, and slowly walk your feet up the wall a few times to get used to being upside-down. You’ll feel your arms, shoulders, and abs engage in this position and test your own strength.
3. Keep your arms straight and shoulder-width apart. This will keep you stable, especially for those at an intermediate level who are practicing this move without the support of the wall.
4. Look at the ground. Focus on the space between your hands, not your feet. This will help you stay balanced, says Curley.
Did you give it a try? Start on something soft, like a carpet or mat, or have a spotter. And don’t take it so seriously—practice as much as you can and have fun!
“Don’t get frustrated if you don’t get inversions the first time,” says Tom. “In life, we must be willing to ‘fall’ before we can succeed. Stay committed…building strength in headstands/handstands can help you build strength in your daily life.”
(Quick side note: These moves should not be practiced by people with high blood pressure, glaucoma, cardiovascular disease, or kidney problems, say Tom and Curley. For everyone else, the safest way to start is with professional instruction, so head to yoga class to have a pro teach you the moves in person.)
Do you think you’ll be trying one of these moves the next time you’re at yoga class? How many of you already know how to do inversions?
photo: Courtesy of subject
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