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How to do a handstand

“Inversions like handstands especially challenge people’s deep-rooted fear, which can often be a metaphor for other challenges in life,” Raghunath says. (Photo: Raghunath via


If you’ve ever been that person in yoga class who stands frozen in mountain pose (youwantmetodowhat pose?) when the instructor announces it’s time for handstand, this is for you.

“There’s nothing more beautiful than feeling the fear and going forward anyway,” says bad-ass yogi Raghunath, the ex-monk, ex-punk yoga teacher who’s built a devoted following with his “Flight School” inversion workshops. “We feel childlike and playful, which is a symptom of vibrant health.”

Assuming you’re ready to face your fear (or just inexperience), handstands are really one of those poses that are helpful to learn at workshops, when class time is given to going over the how-to steps, and instructors are focused on the task of helping you get safely upside down.

And many yogis will say that got their anti-gravity bearings by practicing handstands (safely) outside of class (like on the living room wall, with a pile of couch cushions under them).

Which is why we’ve tapped Raghunath for his tips. Here, the handstand master breaks it down. Read them through before attempting. 

Step 1. Find a wall. Start with both hands planted firmly on the floor shoulder-distance apart, about a foot from the wall. Your arms should be straight like pillars, and your shoulders should be above above your elbows, which should be above your wrists.

Step 2. Place your foot of choice 1.5 feet behind your hands so that you form a triangle with your two hands and foot. Lift other leg into the air. Practice hopping with the base foot, even if only a few inches. Perhaps switch feet in case you tend to favor the other foot and didn’t know it. Keep your arms straight.

Step 3. Look between and slightly in front of your hands. Use your exhale as you hop. As you feel strong enough, whip your high leg upward and toward the wall. This should assist you to get your lower back over your shoulders. Once your back gets over your shoulder, the legs should naturally float up. Bring your lifted leg and then your kicking leg to the wall. Continue looking at the floor between your hands.

Step 4. Figure out an escape route, which is especially helpful for taking your new practice into a classroom. I teach my students to do a little roundoff, like they used to do in gymnastics. If you can learn how to fall out of a handstand, then it’s easy to practice in the center of the room. And, of course, always look at what’s around you so you don’t end up landing on someone or something. —Ann Abel

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Got any tips that worked for your handstand practice? Share them in the Comments, below!