Kino MacGregor has a plan for you: Use these four simple steps to guide your practice, build inner strength, and nail the coveted pose. Go get it.
It took me five years of practice before I could do a Handstand. I was not naturally strong. I was never a dancer or a gymnast. It's all about practice.
Yoga is personal. Only you can choose to turn your mind inward and experience the deepest truth. No one can walk your path for you. There is a humility that can only be cultivated over years of getting on the mat and putting in the work. There's no substitute for listening to that quiet voice of strength that says I will stay the course and keep the faith—no matter how long it takes, through good days and bad, with tenacity, focus, patience, sincerity, and joy.
4 Steps to Handstand
Step One: The Planks
Start off on your hands and knees. Stack the shoulders directly over the center of the palms. Draw the navel and sub-navel inward and tuck the lower ribs in toward the center line. Widen the shoulder blades and lengthen the tailbone. Gaze between the hands. Hold for 5 breaths. Repeat 3 times.
Stack the shoulders directly over the center of the palms. Engage the lower abs and tighten the whole torso by activating the core muscles. Press into the ground with the strength of the shoulders to widen the shoulder blades as much as possible. Keep weight in the balls of the feet, draw the thighs together and gently activate the glutes. Gaze between the hands. Stay for 5 breaths. Repeat 3 times.
Pike Plank is one of the best handstand prep poses because it replicates the sensation of both lifting up and holding a handstand.
TRY IT: Start off in Full Plank and walk your feet close to your hands while maintaining the stability of the shoulder girdle. Leave about 4 inches between your hands and feet. Lengthen the tailbone, round the lower back, draw the ribs in, and tighten the core. Move the shoulders forward so that they align with the front of the palms but not past the fingertips. Send the sacrum forward while maintaining the length in the low back and strength in the torso. Activate your forward bend to feel a sense of strength and lift coming from underneath. Gaze between the hands and avoid looking too far forward or else your neck may cramp up. Hold for 5 breaths. Repeat 3 times.
Start off in a reclining position. Inhale as you tuck the tailbone and draw the lower ribs in to prepare. Exhale as you lift the shoulders off the ground, aim the crown of the head toward the knees, draw the knees into the chest, and wrap the hands around the knees. Engage the lower abs while sucking the lower belly in toward the spine. Stay for 5 breaths, then slowly release and return to an easy reclining pose to rest. Repeat 3 times.
Start off in a reclining position. Inhale as you tuck the tailbone and draw the lower ribs in to prepare. Exhale as you draw the body into the previous tucked position. Inhale as you reach the arms upward while keeping the shoulders lifted off of the ground. Flatten the lower back onto the ground and extend the legs outward. Activate the quadriceps. Hold for 5 breaths. Exhale as you return to “the tuck.” Repeat 3 times. Then slowly release and return to an easy reclining pose to rest.
Holding the inverted L-shape helps build strength along the center line and train your shoulder for good Handstand alignment. Being upside down even with the assistance of the wall also help alleviate any fears of inversions on the arms.
TRY IT: Start off in the Pike Pose with your feet aligned half a leg's length from the wall. Then walk your feet backward up the wall. Continue until the your hips are aligned above your shoulders and your feet are aligned with your hips to form an inverted L-shape. Gaze between your hands. Stay for 5 breaths. Then walk your feet down the wall. Repeat 3 times.
Have a friend spot you instead of using a wall if you need a little support. Remember to cultivate a patient and forgiving attitude toward yourself.
TRY IT: Start off in Pike Plank and lift your left foot up, pointing the toes along the center line of the body. Be careful to avoid reaching too far past the center line. Inhale and lean the shoulders forward while drawing in along the center line. Recall the feeling of the Row Boat and allow the strength of the core to pull you up. Keep the right knee drawn into the chest to avoid tipping too far forward and losing your balance. Gaze steadily between the hands. The most common mistake is jumping with too much force. Instead, trust the strength that you have cultivated and allow that to take your body up and forward into the center line. Extend the tailbone up toward the heels, draw the lower ribs in, and simply think up and forward to find your way into your first Handstand. If at first you don’t succeed, try between 3 and 5 times.
Kino MacGregor is a self-professed Handstand lover (just check out her Instagrams). She’s also a Pattabhi Jois-certified Ashtanga Yoga teacher who travels worldwide, author of three books, featured in six Ashtanga Yoga DVDs, and YogaVibes, and co-founder of Miami Life Center, where she and her husband Tim Feldmann are based. Learn more on kinoyoga.com