Last month, Laura and I challenged each other to do a handstand a day for 30 days. We very rapidly lost count of the days and did a pretty bad job of keeping our shared Evernote folder updated with our daily photos, but in the end, like in most things, it’s the intention that counts. Because although we didn’t take a photo every single day, and even though we don’t know if we even made it to 30 days, it was still a great way to make sure we kept practicing and it kept us connected while oceans apart.
And guess what? It actually worked! We learned a lot and our handstands really improved. I’d say Laura’s more than my own (case in point: she can hop up into a tuck much more gracefully and successfully than I can, by far) but both of us have come a long way certainly since the beginning of 2014 and definitely since the 30-odd days ago that we started consistently trying to stand on our hands. We have more control and can hold the pose for much longer than we could at the beginning of this challenge. Please note: when you’re talking about handstands, “much longer” is counted in seconds (or milleseconds) – but trust me, when you’re upside down, every second feels like a triumph.
I think our #1 tip would be to find somewhere you can practice without fear of falling. Falling is inevitable when you’re learning to handstand, but for me I made huge leaps (read: holding for 1 second longer) in my handstand practice once I started practicing on grass or sand instead of in my apartment. The hard floor seems like a scary thing to flop over onto, and it doesn’t offer much to grab onto so you don’t slip. Both Laura and I have learned to fall out of our handstands into wheel pose, but doing so is harder when you can’t grip the grass or sand in your hands as your feet fall. If your hands slip, you’ll fall on your back which isn’t fun. So get outside! Learn how to fall without fear and you’ll be off to the races.
And as much as it feels like a comfort to have a wall or tree to throw your legs up against, we both learned that doing so doesn’t do great things for your balance or alignment. I found it much easier to get the right form and hold my handstands “much longer” when I was practicing without any walls or supports around. It helps your body learn what it needs to do when it has to do it all on its own.
I can’t speak for Laura, but I know that I’m not at the point where I can hold my handstand for a while, or even get the balance right on the first couple tries. But I do know that I’ve come a long way, and I’m excited to keep practicing. It’s one of my personal goals for the year to be able to hold a handstand (a very vague goal, clearly), and I’m happy I’ve been making progress. #IWillHandstandin2014. So will Laura! Will you?
If you decide to try a handstand challenge, just make sure you have the arm and shoulder strength to hold it when you do get up there! We’re by no means experts (if that wasn’t obvious!) but we recommend building up slowly using a method like the one outlined in this article. Try lots of dolphin planks and downward dogs, and the first time you try to jump up into handstand make sure you have someone there spotting you! The first time I tried (before I had the arm strength) I collapsed, and it wasn’t cute. Practice outside with a soft surface to catch you if you fall, and don’t rely on a wall. Breathe the whole time, it’ll help you regulate your balance. Good luck!
What fitness challenges have you been setting for yourself this summer? Would you ever attempt a handstand?
Hope you’re having an amazing summer. Happy Canada Day!