How to Do Handstand Pose (Adho Mukha Vrksasana) in Yoga

Proper Form, Variations, and Common Mistakes

Woman on yoga mat doing handstand

Verywell / Ben Goldstein

Targets: Shoulders, wrists, arms, balance

Level: Advanced

Handstand (Adho Mukha Vrksasana) has become a glorified yoga pose that can exclude many from feeling as though their practice is up to par. It's important to remember that it doesn't matter how perfect your Handstand Pose looks, especially on Instagram. If you never get away from the wall, it's actually not such a big deal—you get the benefits of the inversion either way.

Handstand is so much about a strong core. Work on your core strength if this pose seems out of reach. By practicing your Plank, Tree Pose, Downward Facing Dog, and Four-Limbed Staff Pose, you will build the strength and balance needed for Handstand.

Benefits

Handstand builds strength in your shoulders, arms, and core. The psoas muscle also gets a workout in keeping your spine stabilized while creating more flexibility through the hamstrings in order to kick up into the pose.

As an inversion, it sends blood to your head, which can both be energizing and conversely help to calm you. Handstand also helps you improve your sense of balance.

Like all poses that are difficult, it's fun to accomplish something that you doubted your ability to do.

Step-by-Step Instructions

  1. Come into Downward Facing Dog with your hands about 6 inches away from the wall.
  2. Walk your feet in closer to your hands, bringing the shoulders over your wrists and, if possible, your hips over your shoulders.
  3. Keep your right foot on the ground lifting onto the ball of it and begin to bend at the knee. Lift the other foot off the floor straightening the lifted leg behind you. Take a few hops here, jumping off from the bent leg and lifting the straight leg toward vertical. Flex your lifted food the entire time for engagement.
  4. Try bringing both heels to the wall. Keep your head down between your upper arms and breathe deeply.
  5. Practice taking the heels off the wall and balancing, remembering to keep your feet flexed. You will need to strongly engage your legs and reach up through your heels. You can also start to work on bringing your gaze to the floor.
  6. Bring one leg down at a time and rest before trying to kick up with the opposite leg for balance.

Common Mistakes

When you raise your leg, be sure to keep your hips square and don't rotate your raised leg. Otherwise, your center of gravity will be shifted and you won't be able to balance into Handstand.

When new to handstand, it is common to kick up too quickly which will also throw off your balance. Remember to go slow as it's more about control and alignment rather than speed. It's common for some to bend at the elbows as they kick up but make sure to keep arms straight and stable as they are your base. Gaze in between your hands, not behind you.

Modifications and Variations

There are a number of ways to work on getting into Handstand, both against the wall and away from it.

Using the wall provides a sense of security that is necessary for a lot of people at first because the fear of falling is a big obstacle that has to be overcome before progress can be made.

A two-legged jump into the pose works better for some people. After step 2 above, bend both knees. Jump lightly, bringing your butt to the wall. Straighten both legs. To prepare for this entry, try some donkey kicks with both legs. Jump up and try to tap your butt with your heels.

If you do start working toward holding the pose in the center of the room, there are a few other methods of kicking up that you may want to consider trying:

  • Begin in position for a standing split. Flatten your palms to the floor and bend your standing leg. Hop lightly to bring both legs up. Sometimes it helps to bend your lifted leg as you jump. It's OK if the first leg up goes past vertical, either straight or bent. This can help you get your balance. Once you are balanced on your hands, work on bringing both legs straight up.
  • Begin in a Prasarita Padattanasana. Straighten your arms in your forward bend. Shift your weight forward into your hands. Try lifting the legs out to the sides and up simultaneously with control. Your shoulders may come past your wrist as you lift up. That's fine, but realign them when you are in the pose.

Safety and Precautions

Avoid Handstand and other inversions if you have any conditions for which your doctor recommends not letting your head go below the level of your heart. These often include uncontrolled high blood pressure, stroke, detached retina, glaucoma, and recent dental bone transplants. Also avoid this pose if you have an injury or chronic pain condition of your neck, shoulder, or wrist.

Until you are proficient with Handstand, practice it against a wall or with a friend or instructor spotting you.

Try It Out

Incorporate this move and similar ones into one of these popular workouts:

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