Advanced Yoga Sequences

Challenge Pose: Handstand (Adho Mukha Vrksasana)

Find your edge and shift your weight into your hands as you move step by step into Adho Mukha Vrksasana.

Find your edge and shift your weight into your hands as you move step by step into Adho Mukha Vrksasana.

PREVIOUS STEP IN YOGAPEDIA 3 Prep Poses for Handstand (Adho Mukha Vrksasana)

Energizes, builds confidence, hones attention and focus, shifts perspective, strengthens your upper body, and reverses the effects of gravity (compression and shortening) on your spine.

Step 1

Start in Adho Mukha Svanasana. Bring your feet together at the midline; spread your palms and press them into the floor. Stretch through the sides of the waist and fortify your legs. Start to lift the heels, shifting some of your weight into the balls of the feet.

See also 3 Ways to Make Downward-Facing Dog Feel Better for You

Step 2


Step your right foot forward halfway to your hands and bring your shoulders over your wrists. Allow your right knee to bend. Keep the ball of the right foot on the floor but lift the heel. Press down firmly through your hands and lift your left leg into Standing Splits. Remember to lift your left inner thigh toward the ceiling and make your leg straight, like an arrow. Wrap your biceps forward. Push firmly down into your hands and make your arms completely straight, like pillars. Find a focal point, or drishti, on the ground, a few inches in front of your hands.

See also How Tara Stiles Preps to Balance in Handstand

Step 3


Keep your arms firm. Bend the right knee deeply and take a small hop off the right foot. It is paramount that as you transition weight onto your hands, you lift up through the inner left thigh (as opposed to reaching the left leg behind you). Draw the low belly in to support the pelvis. Do not aim to get your legs overhead; instead, aim to place your pelvis over your chest and shoulders. When you lead with your legs and not your pelvis, you will often backbend and find balance elusive. Eventually, you will be able to bring the right leg parallel to the floor into an inverted Utthita Hasta Padangusthasana. At this stage, don’t lift the right leg higher—it will serve as an anchor and keep you from flipping over. Once you have the right leg parallel to the floor, internally rotate the thighs, drawing them energetically into the midline. Your legs should feel like scissor blades: bolted firmly into their common point (the pelvis) and moving along, but not away from, the midline.

See also 7 Steps to Defy Gravity and Balance In Handstand

Step 4


Once you have found balance, draw your legs together. Push down into the hands and actively reach up through the feet and legs. As you hug your legs into the midline, move the tailbone and the tops of the buttocks toward your heels. This will introduce length to the lumbar spine. Draw your low ribs toward the frontal hipbones to prevent any backbending. Make your body feel like an inverted Urdhva Hastasana. Grow even taller by reaching your legs strongly up and away from your rooted and stable palms. Hold for 5 to 8 breaths. To release, step your right foot down, then your left, and take Pada Hastasana (Foot-to-Hand Pose) to stretch the wrists.

Stay Safe

In Handstand, distribute the weight evenly from your outer palm to your inner palm by pressing equally into the mounds at the base of each finger. Avoid cupping the hands, so that there is no unnecessary compression in your outer wrists. Keep your upper arms firm and your elbows straight to prevent buckling and instability. Reach up strongly through the feet, legs, and tailbone while engaging the core so that you do not dump into your low back, creating “banana back” and compression in the lower spine. Practice at a wall until you are comfortable being upside down. When practicing without a wall, start by bringing the second leg no higher than parallel to the floor—it will act as an anchor and prevent you from falling over into a backbend.

See also Q&A: How Do I Come Up Into Handstand with Both Legs?