Balancing in Handstand
How Do You Peel Your Feet off of the Wall (and Balance)?
If you are used to doing handstand with your back against a wall, how then do you learn get your feet (and buttocks) off of the wall and actually balance?
If your back is to the wall with your feet against the wall, one way to pull your feet off of the wall so that you are balancing in handstand is to move your hips forwards far enough that your feet become light on the wall.
Another way is to move one leg forward, away from the wall to the point that the other foot then becomes light. When one (or both feet) become "light" on the wall, you are balanced.
Then the challenge is staying balanced as you stack your body over your hands.
You may find it easier to get into balance if you learn to control your shoulders. In the context of handstands, shoulder control is being aware of where your shoulders are in relation to your hands and choosing where you want them to be.
While in handstand, your shoulders are your equivalent to your hips and you may find that the better you can feel and control the relationship of your shoulders and hands, the easier it is to stay balanced and the easier it is to "catch" your balance if you find yourself tipping out of handstand. But even before you get to that stage it can also help when you are first learning to balance in this inverted yoga balance pose.
Moving Your Shoulders
You can begin working on developing shoulder control by trying to move your shoulders backwards and forwards while you have your feet against the wall.
Do this slowly, and limit the amount you move. Generally I like to start with shoulders over my wrists and then I move my shoulders forwards a little bit (towards my finger tips) and then return to center.
You may find you can do this once or twice then you have to come down.
That's fine, just jump up again after a rest.
Depending on how close your hands are to the wall you may find that if you move your shoulders forwards quickly your feet flick away from the wall.
Another shoulder control exercise you can do while in handstand with feet against the wall is to move one shoulder forwards and the other back, so that you are twisting.
You might also want to try side bending, pushing your ribcage one way and reaching your legs in the opposite direction to stay balanced.
Do this slowly and work towards it gradually. Go a little bit further each time, and as you are able. Stop and return to center when you feel you've reached your limits!
Controlling the Shoulders in Handstand
In this picture notice that my shoulders aren't directly over my hands. Instead they are a little bit ahead of my hands. In a pike position with my legs at 90 degrees my shoulders would be even further forwards to help balance the weight of my legs.
Pulling Away with Both Feet
With your feet against the wall in handstand (back towards the wall) position your shoulders slightly ahead of your wrists.
Elbows can be engaged and use your shoulders to push your ribcage up away from the floor.
Slowly pull your hips away from the wall. (You may have to have your hands closer to the wall to do this handstand balancing exercise!) Keep your shoulders over your wrists or ahead of your wrists as you choose.
Notice when your weight is pressing down through the roots of your fingers. Also notice when your feet become "light" on the wall.
You can then try peeling both feet off of the wall. Not a lot, just a little!
To verticalize your handstand, move your hips towards the wall and your feet away from the wall so that both end up stacked over your hands. While doing this feel your hands. Keep your "weight" over your hands. You may have to repeat this several times before you get it.
In this exercise you push your hips forwards, so that they are to one side of your hands while your feet are on the other side. If you push your hips forwards enough they balance the weight of your legs. Then you can bring them both back to "center" while staying balanced in handstand.
If this is too difficult, try moving your hands closer to the wall so that you don't have to push your hips so far forwards.
Scissoring Your Feet Away from the Wall
Another way to peel your feet off of the wall so that you are balancing in handstand is to scissor one leg away from the wall. Reach the leg far enough forwards that it balances the weight of the other leg. You'll feel it become "light" on the wall.
Keeping your weight over your hands scissor your legs together while staying balanced.
Note again that when doing this it may help to have your shoulders slightly ahead of your hands.
Staying Balanced in Handstand
Once you have both feet away from the wall, to stay balanced in handstand feel your hands and feel your body. Anytime you feel your self tipping away from the wall try to regain balance by moving your shoulders forwards. The earlier you sense movement away from balance the quicker you can react to save your balance.
Also the more forwards you can move your shoulders forwards, the easier it may be to save.
Another action you can practice is controlling your legs at you hips. Try moving your legs slightly forwards or back to save your balance. The equivalent would be trying to balance on the back legs of a chair and using your arms to save yourself by reaching them forwards.
To stay balanced in handstand practice using your legs in the same way.
When I was trying to write about motorcyling one of the concepts I came up with was looking ahead, looking to the horizon, or the furthest point ahead that you could see on the road. At the same time you had to be aware of what was immediatley in front of you.
The idea of "looking to the horizon" was to detect changes (on coming traffic, unexpected obstacles) as early as possible.
You could then respond as early as possible and with the least effort. What's easier, noticing a car comng towards you in the wrong lane 10 seconds ahead of time or 1 seconds ahead of time?
Looking ahead ideally gives that 9 second advantage.
When doing handstands or any other yoga pose, the equivalent would be to notice your whole body and notice when any part moves. This is more than just focusing on the foundation. It's actually feeling your legs or pelvis move as they move. You can then work to hault any unnecessary or undersired movement with the minimum of effort.
So why do I focus on foundation first? To be honest because I thought it was the easiest thing to learn to feel and control. It's a good starting point.
But that is what it is, a starting point to feeling and controlling your body.
Ultimately you learn to feel and control your entire body (where possible) when doing yoga and when using your body in any other activity.
That then makes it easier to balance in handstand or anything else that you are trying to do.
Remember, the earlier you sense change, the earlier you can respond and then you may find it easier to stay balanced in handstand and in any other yoga balancing pose.
Published: 2011 07 21