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The Benefits of Handstands for the Body

By Kristin Dorman

Handstand is a challenging and rewarding pose that brings a sense of adventure to your yoga practice. The Sanskrit name for this freeing and invigorating inversion is Adho Mukha Vrksasana. Though a well-executed handstand appears light and effortless, it requires a great deal of discipline to learn and safely enjoy. Handstands improve your balance, strength and flexibility. By turning your body upside down, handstands invigorate your circulation. If you're new to practicing handstand, find a qualified yoga instructor to show you the basics before you attempt it on your own.


Yoga practitioners frequently gain the strength to do a handstand long before they develop the necessary balance for the pose. You must overcome your fear of falling before your mind can calm and focus enough to balance. As your body is always in motion with your breath and circulation, you must make constant minor adjustments to sustain your balance in a handstand. You must control your body position every step of the way while moving in and out of a handstand, then sustain your balance through minor movements once you are in the pose. Because your body must balance on your hands, avoid this pose if you have hand or wrist pain.


Handstands engage every major muscle group in your body. During a handstand, the muscles in your arms, shoulders and chest support your body weight, while core muscles in your back and abdomen provide stability. Engaging your leg muscles provides lift in the pose and takes pressure off your chest and core. In addition to creating support and lift within the pose, your muscles constantly adjust to maintain balance. Practice handstands regularly to build your strength until you can hold the pose for two to three minutes at a time. If you have low or high blood pressure, hold a handstand for 30 seconds or less.


A handstand is primarily a strength and balance pose, though it also stretches your abdomen. Depending on which style of yoga you consult, handstands can involve a back bend. Incorporate at least a slight back bend in your handstand to maintain supportive alignment of your spine. Once you achieve a handstand, lengthen through your spine while back bending slightly to produce a gentle stretch in your belly.


By flipping your body upside down, handstands invert normal blood flow. This increases circulation to your upper body while relieving pressure on your feet and legs. Handstands benefit your spine, brain and pituitary gland, according to "Yoga Journal." The flood of blood to your brain is energizing and calming at the same time, relieving minor depression. A properly executed back bend during a handstand also invigorates your nervous system while energizing your body.

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