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Intermediate Yoga Sequences

3 Prep Poses for Handstand (Adho Mukha Vrksasana)

Lengthen the hamstrings, hone midline awareness, and cultivate balance with these prep poses for Adho Mukha Vrksasana.

Lengthen the hamstrings, hone midline awareness, and cultivate balance with these prep poses for Adho Mukha Vrksasana.

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Downward-Facing Dog Pose

Adho Mukha Svanasana

Benefit
Strengthens the upper body, lengthens the hamstring and calf muscles, fosters introspection and calm

Instruction
Start in Table Top. Place your palms shoulder-width apart, with your pointer fingers parallel. Ground evenly through all four corners of your palms. Externally rotate your upper-arm bones and internally rotate your forearms. On an exhalation, tuck your toes, lift your knees, and straighten your legs. Your feet should be sitting-bones-width apart. Lift your quadriceps and press your thighbones away from your chest and arms. Reach your sitting bones up and your heels down, stretching the backs of your legs. As you press your palms down into the floor, reach your pelvis in the opposite direction and lengthen through the side waist. Avoid rounding the upper back. Smooth out the front ribs. Contract the middle and lower trapezius muscles, between and below your shoulder blades, so that you can soften the upper trapezius muscles along your neck. Stay here for 10 breaths before exhaling back to Table Top.

See alsoFind Proper Arm Alignment in Downward-Facing Dog

Standing Splits

Urdhva Prasarita Ekapadasana

Benefit
Stretches the hamstrings of the standing leg, strengthens the hamstrings and glutes of the lifted leg, cultivates balance, and shifts perspective

Instruction
Stand in Tadasana. Inhale to Urdhva Hastasana and then exhale to Uttanasana (Standing Forward Bend). Firmly ground down through your standing, right foot and lift your right quadricep muscles. Inhale and lead with the inner thigh as you lift your left leg. Make sure you internally rotate your left leg and hug the midline with the inner seam of the leg. Don’t let the left hip open or the left leg bend. Extend the spine so that the back doesn’t round. Hold for 8 breaths and then release the left leg down. Take an easy Uttanasana, then switch sides.

See also Kathryn Budig Challenge Pose: Standing Splits

Extended Hand-to-Big-Toe Pose

Utthita Hasta Padangusthasana

Benefit
Strengthens and stretches your legs, teaches the entry to Handstand

Instruction
From Tadasana, draw the right knee to the chest and yogi toe-lock the right big toe. Point your left foot forward, lift your left kneecap, and press your left femur back. Keep the chest lifted. Exhale to straighten your right leg as much as possible. Roll your outer right hip down, away from the armpit. Either keep the left hand on the left hip or extend the arm alongside your left ear. Keep the pelvis neutral and use your breath to spread the chest. Hold for 8 breaths. To come out, bend the right knee, release the toe, and hug the knee in before returning the right foot to the floor. Repeat on the other side. The standing leg becomes the first leg up into Handstand, so it’s crucial that it remains straight; the lifted leg, however, can bend if necessary.

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