If you’ve ever caught a glimpse of people doing acro-yoga—aka acrobatic-style yoga poses—you’ve definitely seen someone in a handstand. A handstand is the exact opposite of your regular, everyday form: standing upright on your feet. Though flipping yourself upside-down can feel intimidating, Nike master trainer Traci Copeland is teaching just how to do a handstand for beginners looking to try it out.
Once the relatively advanced inversion is broken down step by step, the handstand feels much more achievable. And that’s exactly what Copeland is doing in this week’s episode of The Right Way, Well+Good’s YouTube series that teaches exercise move fundamentals (subscribe if you haven’t yet). Inversions are always the kinds of yoga poses that elicit stares from impressed bystanders (that includes your cat or dog in your at home flows) and for good reason. Not only are you using enough strength to hold yourself upside down on your mere hands, but inversions also provide a boost to your cognition, as they’re said to help quash brain fog.
The biggest secret to nailing a handstand? It’s in your alignment. “You can’t do a handstand unless your shoulders get over your wrists,” says Copeland, who often sees people missing this foundational step in getting into the pose. When you keep this in mind—along with the importance of maintaining control throughout the move—you’ll be able to master the handstand. Also key? Avoiding these common form mistakes that Copeland sees people make all the time. Once you memorize these, hit play on the video to learn how to do it correctly as a beginner.
1. Keeping the head out
Oftentimes, Copeland sees people getting into handstands by placing their hands on the ground, then keeping their head out in front. And this means that you’re not in one straight line, which is essential in getting that balance needed for the inversion.
2. Arching the back
Another form mistake that takes your body out of alignment? Arching your back too much. “I often see people that have their back super arched,” says Copeland. This isn’t helpful for getting into a handstand, and it’s also bad for your spine.
3. Not kicking up all the way
According to Copeland, another common mistake with handstands happens with your kick. When you don’t kick up all the way, it’s hard to get your shoulders in line with your wrists, which takes you upside-down. “This almost looks like a variation of downward dog,” she says of the incorrect form.
4. Kicking too hard
Control is really, really important when doing an inversion. When you kick too hard to get into a handstand, Copeland points out that this shows a lack of control over your body. And that means… going kerplunk on your mat, rather than hanging in the air upside down.
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