I’ve been practicing yoga for about 10 years now and I absolutely love it for both the physical and mental challenge it offers. For me, yoga is like therapy, and it’s been the most consistent part of my life for the past decade.
Yoga has continued to nurture my mind, body, and soul, but recently I was feeling like I hit a plateau in my practice. I decided I needed to take on a challenge to help me push past it.
An advanced posture taught in yoga is the handstand. I’ve been able to land a handstand for a few seconds for the past few years, but I haven’t practiced it enough consistently to go beyond that. I have no problem doing a handstand up against a wall, but when I try and do one in open space I get stuck. I am petrified of falling forward and breaking my neck and it’s really just the fear that is stopping me from learning how to do it.
So, I decided to try and learn how to do a handstand in just one week, to level up my yoga practice and help me push past some mental blockages that have been holding me back.
Finding a coach
In order to succeed, I needed a great handstand coach. So I asked my friend Andrew Sealy, a world-renowned yoga teacher and a handstand wizard, to be my coach and help me learn the physical and mental mechanics of the handstand posture.
My goal was to land a handstand for a full 10 seconds at the end of the week.
My first handstand class
To kick-off the challenge, Andrew guided me through a handstand specific yoga class. We started with wrist and shoulder mobility to warm up, then moved into core strength and shoulder strength. Next, Andrew prepped me with some poses for proper handstand alignment.
Learning to fall
Once my body was fully prepped for handstands, there was one more thing I needed to learn before moving forward: how to fall out of a handstand.
One of my biggest barriers to learning a handstand in the past was the fear of falling forward onto my neck. I would use my hands as breaks and walk on them. Andrew advised against this habit in order to truly learn how to handstand.
Andrew taught me two ways to fall out of a handstand – either from side to side or the tuck in roll, which would be the way to fall if I was falling forward.
I learned three ways to get into a handstand – the “scissor lift”, the “tuck hop”, and the “straddle kick”.
After the class, I felt like I had learned so much in such a short amount about proper handstand alignment and preparation, and I was ready to start practicing on my own for the next week.
My training schedule
If I had all the time in the world, I would be able to spend a long amount of time every day working on my handstand, but since I have to keep a business running, I would only have about one hour every day for handstand practice. I would need to really focus and make the most of this time each day.
Although I always thought core strength was the most important element of being able to handstand, Andrew made me realize how many other factors are equally important, including proper alignment, breath, and preparing the body.
Throughout my handstand training, I ended up falling… a lot. But I had to be okay with challenging myself and falling in order to learn.
How did it go?
After a few days of practice on my own, I was still feeling stuck. So I went to go practice on the green in Santa Monica and somehow stumbled upon a handstand class that I joined in on. We did a lot of wrist, hand, and shoulder prep and I learned a few new tricks that were really helpful. It was also just really fun being with other people and learning together, rather than being alone in my living room.
By the end of the week, I had successfully landed a handstand for 10 seconds, several times. I had finally proved to myself that I could do it, but being able to do this on command was another story.
I went to go meet up with Andrew at the end of the week to show him my progress and found it challenging to handstand on command. I ended up being able to do it for 10 seconds though, and I was really proud of myself for actually being able to do it!
By the end of the week, I had by no means mastered the handstand, but I had proven to myself that I can do anything I set my mind to. Like anything in life, practice, focus, and dedication are required to master any skill.
Taking on any kind of challenge isn’t necessarily about the result or the outcome, it’s about the journey and the process you go through and everything you learn along the way. If you are feeling stuck or stagnant in any area of your life, taking on some kind of challenge is a great way to break out of your habitual routine and learn something new!