How To Master Your Handstand: Yoga Instructor's Opinion

The handstand is a challenging and visually stunning yoga pose that is often regarded as the pinnacle of inversion postures. Gaining the ability to balance solely on our hands requires courage, strength, and endurance, and it can be an intimidating endeavor. Let’s explore the yoga instructor’s advice on how to master your handstand safely and confidently.

Key takeaways:

The key physical elements you need to master your handstand

There are very few people who can just pop up into a handstand on their first attempt. As with most things, we need to practice building our skills from the ground up rather than just going for it and hurting ourselves in the process.

It’s crucial to start slowly. If you go too hard or too fast, you are more likely to hurt yourself. You wouldn’t hit the gym and start bench pressing 50 kg if you’ve never bench pressed in your life. It’s no different with a handstand; you need to build up to it.

Below are some of the most important key elements that you’ll need to work on to prepare for handstand practice.

Arm strength

In order to carry your weight on your hands, you’ll need to develop robust upper body strength, especially in your forearms, triceps, and shoulders.

Exercises which help develop these essential muscles include:

  • Push-ups
  • Shoulder presses
  • Plank variations
  • Yoga poses like downward dog or four-limbed staff pose

Wrist mobility

Strong and flexible wrists are an essential — yet frequently disregarded — part of handstand preparation. When you place your entire body weight on your hands, your wrists are put under a lot of strain. If you do not properly prepare your body for a handstand, you could get hurt.

Exercises for wrist mobility include:

  • Daily wrist circles
  • Wrist flexion and extension holding a dumbbell
  • Frequent finger stretching
  • Wrist flexor and extensor exercises

Core strength

As with many yoga poses and fitness exercises alike, having a strong core is essential for maintaining proper alignment, staying balanced, and providing stability. If your core muscles are not working effectively enough while performing a handstand, you risk wobbling and losing your balance.

Exercises for core strength include:

  • Plank variations
  • Leg raises
  • Crunches
  • Yoga poses such as shoulder stand, headstand, and boat pose

Muscular endurance

Holding yourself upside down requires a hefty amount of muscular endurance. You need to be able to balance and keep your muscles engaged if you want to sustain a handstand for any length of time.

Exercises for building muscular endurance include:

  • Plank variations, held for increasing periods of time
  • Yoga poses like four-limbed staff pose

Key mental elements to mastering a handstand

It’s not just the physical body that needs to be strong in order to do the much-coveted handstand — it takes a huge amount of mental strength and agility too.


It is quite common to be afraid of falling upside down. In fact, the majority of people who learn handstands report this as a barrier. However, you will need to have courage and face your fear head-on if you want to master this inversion.

The key to overcoming fear, as with anything that frightens us, is to take tiny, doable steps. As we become more courageous in one posture, we gain the confidence to move forward and attempt more difficult tasks.

Don’t beat yourself up if you aren’t able to do a handstand the first time you try — it's not easy to go from being upright to flipping your perspective completely in one go.


Don’t expect to be walking across the room on your hands after a few attempts. While this might be the end goal, you need to apply consistent effort to learning the mechanisms of a handstand and how to do it safely.

Developing the strength and bravery to be able to hold oneself upside down will require consistent practice. Just like with anything new you learn, you have to give yourself enough time to process each step fully before going on.

Yoga teacher tip
Regular practice is essential if you want to master a handstand. Consistently dedicate time to practice and be patient with your progress.

The benefits of handstands

Even though handstands are a difficult inversion to get to grips with, their benefits can be numerous, including:

  • Upper body strength. Handstands demand a lot from your upper body, and regular practice will lead to greater gains and definition, especially in your triceps and shoulders.
  • Core strength. During handstands and handstand prep exercises, you’ll be getting an intense core workout, which will build stability and definition in that important muscle group. Having a strong core also takes the pressure off the lower back, potentially helping to ease lower back pain.
  • Improved balance. Handstands strongly challenge your ability to balance, and mastering them will help with coordination and balance when you are standing up right as well as upside down.
  • Mental focus. Mastering a handstand requires strong mental focus. A break in concentration can mean that you start wobbling and fall out of the posture. By practicing this level of focus, you may improve your ability to concentrate in other areas of life too.
  • Confidence boost. Because of the sheer challenge of a handstand, mastering it can give us a big confidence boost. When we achieve something that’s been difficult and a real test of endurance, it can do wonders for our self-esteem and ability to believe in ourselves.

Handstand prep exercises

It is important that you take the time to complete the warm-up exercises, even though it might be tempting to just throw your hands down and try a full handstand. By preparing your body beforehand, you’ll be better equipped and more likely to succeed in a safe and sustainable way.

Wrist warm up

Warming up your wrists helps to prepare them for the stress of weight-bearing during your handstand.

Wrist warm up
  1. Start by making small circles with your wrists in both directions to get them moving well.
  2. With your arms out in front of you, alternate between making tight fists and stretching your fingers out as wide as you can.
  3. Push your palms together firmly, elbows out to the side, and move the heels of your hands away from each other while keeping your fingers touching.

Downward facing dog

This well known yoga pose will prepare your core, arms and shoulders for the extra challenge of a handstand.

Downward facing dog
  1. Begin in a plank position and push your hips up to the ceiling.
  2. Make an upside-down V shape with your body.
  3. Pedal the legs out to get a good stretch down the hamstrings.
  4. Transition a few times from plank to downward-facing dog and back again.
Yoga teacher tip
Don't hesitate to use props like yoga blocks or a wall for support when starting. They can help build confidence and enhance your handstand practice.

L-shaped handstand

For anyone who is afraid of being upside down, this exercise will help you build the confidence you need to go all the way.

L-shaped handstand
  1. Stand about 2–3 feet away from a wall with your back to it.
  2. Come down into an all-fours position.
  3. Reach one leg at a time behind and gradually walk up the wall.
  4. Go as far as you are comfortable — you can progress over time.
  5. The aim is to get your body into an L shape with your hands on the floor and feet on the wall.

Wall supported handstand

When you are ready, a wall supported handstand can help you experience the sensation of being completely upside down while having the wall to support you.

Wall supported handstand
  1. Place your hands about a foot away from the wall.
  2. Gently kick up into a handstand position.
  3. Rest your legs against the wall.
  4. Focus on engaging your core and maintaining proper alignment.
Yoga teacher tip
Pay close attention to the alignment of your body, aiming to keep a straight line from your wrists to your hips and feet to achieve a balanced handstand.

One-legged supported handstand

After you are comfortable with a wall supported handstand, taking one leg off at a time will help you build the confidence for the full posture.

One-legged supported handstand
  1. Come up into a wall-supported handstand.
  2. Once you are properly aligned, bring one leg off the wall and lower it until it makes an L shape.
  3. Hold for 30 seconds.
  4. Repeat with the other leg.

Tips for staying safe during handstand practice

When practicing handstands, safety should always come first if you want to develop confidence. Follow these top tips to stay safe while learning to master your handstand:

  1. Practice on a soft surface. You are going to fall out, wobble, and tumble a lot when you first start practicing, so it’s a good idea to cushion your landings.
  2. Use a spotter. Having someone else there when you first start practicing this inversion can be a valuable aid in helping you to stay upright and balanced, and assist you if you fall out.
  3. Listen to your body. Pay close attention to what your body is telling you and take it easy if you need to rest. Continuing to practice when your body is tired and aching can be counterproductive.

By frequently engaging in the prep exercises, dedicating yourself to building strength and flexibility, and training both your body and mind for the challenge of this inversion, you’ll find yourself conquering the mighty handstand with safety and bags of confidence.


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