Inversion Yoga Poses

Handstand or Downward Facing Tree Pose

Downward-Facing Tree Pose, called Adho Mukha Vrksasana in Sanskrit, works to boost the body's energy and build confidence in the mind.

How to Say Adho Mukha Vrksasana in Sanskrit

(ah-doh moo-kah vriks-SHAHS-anna)
adho mukha = face
downward (adho = downward; mukha = face)
vrksa = tree

Handstand Step-by-Step Instructions

Handstand
Photo: Christopher Dougherty; Mat: Jade Yoga; Props: Hugger Mugger
  1. Begin with your mat at the wall in Adho Mukha Svanasana, with the fingertips about 5 inches from the wall
  2. Practice all the classic AMS hand, arm and shoulder actions.
  3. On an inhale, rock forward so the shoulders stack directly over the wrists.
  4. Fix the gaze on a point between and slightly ahead of the index fingertips.
  5. If the hips are not well higher than the shoulders, walk the feet in a couple of inches.
  6. On an exhale, step one foot about 1/3 of the way to the hands.
  7. Point the second foot, keeping the leg absolutely straight and neutral.
  8. At the end of the exhale, push off the forward foot to propel the pelvis and legs to the wall.
  9. Once both feet are up the wall, flex the ankles and climb the heels up any amount higher.
  10. Spin the inner thighs towards the wall and take the flesh of the buttocks towards the heels.
  11. Direct the front ribs towards the frontal hipbones.
  12. Hold for 5-10 breaths, then, keeping one leg at the wall for as long as possible, release the opposite leg lightly to the floor and hang in a soft Uttanasa (Standing Forward Bend).

GO BACK TO A-Z POSE FINDER

Handstand or Downward Facing Tree Pose Cues

Benefits of Handstand or Downward Facing Tree Pose

  • Improves postural and body awareness
  • Improves circulation—lymphatic and venous Can help reduce swelling in your ankles and feet
  • Can boost energy and fight fatigue
  • Can help build confidence and empowerment
  • Improves posture and counteracts the effects of sitting and computer work
  • Mainly strengthens your core, back, chest, arms, shoulders, thighs, buttocks (gluteals)

Cautions and Contraindications of Handstand

  • Caution or avoid if you have osteoporosis, bulging or herniated discs, acute back pain or issues, or any condition that poses a higher risk if you fall Deepen the Pose
  • Avoid full inversions for heart conditions or unregulated high blood pressure
  • Avoid or caution when inverting for certain eye conditions (glaucoma, detached retina, diabetic retinopathy, recent cataract surgery, etc.) Ask your optomologist if you are unsure.
  • Be cautious if you have vertigo or dizziness 
  • Extreme caution or avoid if you are pregnant, particularly if you don’t already have a strong inversion practice 
  • Avoid putting your head below your heart if you have heart burn, indigestion, or acid reflux 
  • Avoid if you have an ear infection
  • If you are menstruating, you may choose not to do full inversions for comfort and energetic reasons, but there is no known medical reason not to practice

3 Ways to Modify Handstand

1. Handstand against wall 1 

Start in a Downward Facing Dog with your toes on the ground and heels against the wall. Slowly walk your feet up the wall 

2. Handstand against wall 2 

Start in a Downward Facing Dog with your toes on the ground and heels against the wall. Slowly walk your feet up the wall into the variation above, Handstand Against Wall 1. Optionally, lift one leg up toward the ceiling, actively flexing your foot and pressing it up toward the ceilingPreparatory Poses for Handstand

3. Handstand against wall 3

Also, try handstand against the wall with your back toward the wall. You can start in a Downward Facing Dog but this time your hands are toward the wall . Kick one leg up to come towards handstand, allowing the other leg to follow. The wall will stop you in center. It may take a couple of tries of kicking to get into handstand. When you get here, press your hands actively into the floor and reach your feet toward the ceiling. Stay here for several deep breaths to about a minute. Come down by kicking your feet down back into a Downward Facing Dog again. Release down into a Child’s pose or any restful position with your head down for about a minute. Then, slowly get up, being cautious to move transition slower if you get dizzy 

Preparatory Poses for Downward Facing Dog

  • Adho Mukha Svanasana
  • Bakasana
  • Pincha Mayurasana
  • Plank Pose
  • Supta Virasana
  • Tadasana
  • Uttanasana
  • Virasana

Follow-up Poses After Downward Facing Dog

  • Sirsasana
  • Pincha Mayurasana

More Pose Detail

For more pose info, including anatomy illustrations and a sequence builder that allows you to create, save, share, and set playlists for safe and fun home practices or studio classes, get the new Yoga Journal app. Learn more at yogajournalplus.plankk.com.

Learn more about our contributors here