Yoga Tutorial: How To Do a Handstand

Handstands are the unicorn of yoga postures.

It’s the yoga pose we stare at in amazement and disbelief. It’s the yoga pose that floods our social media feeds. And it’s the yoga pose that’s never too late to learn…

Equal parts patience and practice will create a handstand.

Before we get into the tutorial, I want to shed some light on my background with handstands.

For years, I was a gymnast and cheerleader and because of this experience, my fear of being upside down is very minimal.

However, upon starting yoga in my mid twenties, handstands were suddenly a mystery – even after flipping and flying all those years. I kept wondering to myself, how the hell is everyone else effortlessly upside down.

I haven’t solved the mystery quite yet, but I’m almost there, like right at the peak point in my search. With a lot of patience and practice, handstands are starting to make sense again.

Insert happy yoga girl dance here…

Below is a step-by-step tutorial to help make handstands click for you. I urge you to save this blog post, print it out, write down notes, and practice every step – wholeheartedly and with passion.

Are you ready to get upside down?

Learn how to handstand in this step-by-step tutorial! Pin now, get upside down now!

Learn how to handstand in this step-by-step tutorial! Pin now, get upside down now!

1. Forearm Plank

This prep pose is all about the CORE and you will feel it, immediately.

When upside down in a handstand, the core should be in a neutral, stabilized position. To teach the body this position, we want to focus on forearm plank and plank pose holds. I know you’re jumping for joy…..

Tips & Tricks:

  • Stack the shoulders directly over the elbows.
  • Melt the tailbone down towards the heels and suck the bellybutton back – this helps create that neutral position.
  • Engage the body into one long line of energy – everything is working together.
  • Hold the pose for 30 seconds and then work up to a minute.
  • Do this a few times a week until the pose becomes easier and more natural.

Related: Looking to re-visit foundational postures? Click here to join me in a 30-day Posture Journey.

Yoga Tutorial: How to Do a Handstand

2. Dolphin Pose

Dolphin pose is key for both handstands and forearm balance postures. It helps build shoulder and upper back flexibility which is required for inversions. This is a tough one, don’t be fooled by the name of the pose.

Tips & Tricks:

  • Start with forearms on the ground and hands directly shoulder width apart – direct is the key word there.
  • Find something like a down dog pose – hips go high, backs of the legs lengthen, chest melts, and shoulders relax away from the ears.
  • Begin to walk the toes in towards the face and send the hips high to the sky.
  • Eventually – the hips, shoulders, and elbows will all stack over one another.
  • Hold for 30 seconds, work up to a minute, and then incorporate this into your daily routine.

Yoga Tutorial: How to Do a Handstand

3. Wrist Stretches

Believe it or not, the wrists are a vital part of the handstand. Not only are they stretched to their maximum range of movement here, but they also support the weight of your entire body.

Related: Yoga Class to Strengthen & Stretch the Wrists

All I gotta say is… thank you sweet wrists of mine.

Tips & Tricks:

  • Do the three wrist stretches shown below in the photos.
  • Hold each stretch for 10 breaths, then move to the next one.
  • Wrist stretches can be done everyday or before practicing handstands.

Yoga Tutorial: How to Do a Handstand

Yoga Tutorial: How to Do a Handstand

Yoga Tutorial: How to Do a Handstand

4. L-Shaped Handstand

We are about to reverse the blood flow and get upside down – wooo! Let’s pause and recap for a brief moment before the shenanigans begins…

  • The core is engaged, fired up, and ready to support the body in a neutral, stabilizing position.
  • The upper back and shoulders are open and able to support the stacking of the joints – hips over shoulders, shoulders over elbows, and elbows over wrists.
  • The wrists are warmed up and ready to hold you up.

If you answered yes, yes, and yes to all of the above, then let’s get on with it!

Tips & Tricks:

  • Locate a sturdy wall – not this tiny ass beam like I’m using in the photo.
  • Plant the hands about 3 feet away from the wall, this will take some maneuvering once you go up for the first time.
  • Walk the feet up the wall until they are directly parallel with the hips.
  • Stack the body here by sending the hips and butt back. This is a weird sensation at first and really damn hard!
  • Hold for 10 – 15 breaths, come down, and repeat.

*In the photo below, notice how my hips are not stacked directly over the wrists. I need to start with the hands a tad closer in or walk them in once I lift up.

Yoga Tutorial: How to Do a Handstand

Lifted Leg Variation:

After the body acclimates to the L shaped handstand above, then move into a lifted leg variation.

Tips & Tricks:

  • From the above position, lift one leg directly up.
  • Stack the body here too – heel over hips, hips over shoulders, shoulder over wrists.
  • Engage the lifted leg and flex through the foot.
  • If ready, gently push away from the wall and feel the sensation of balancing… Think small baby taps here.
  • Switch sides and do it all over again!

Yoga Tutorial: How to Do a Handstand

5. Handstand with Knee Tucked

Whoa – we’re moving into the middle of the room! Take a deep breath, you got this friends…

Before you go kicking up into that beautiful handstand of yours, PLEASE plan an exit strategy. I like to cartwheel out to one side or worst case scenario, fall over into a wheel pose. Whatever happens – don’t panic and flail around.

Tips & Tricks:

  • Plant the hands shoulder width apart or even a bit wider & spread the fingers wide, wide, wide.
  • Pick a point on the ground about 6 inches in front of the face. Lock eyes with the chosen point and never lose sight of it!
  • Come into a standing split with the lifted leg incredibly active – never let it soften, not even for a moment.
  • With the foot that is on the ground, take a slight bend in the knee, then hop up. Start with small hops and gradually add more momentum into them.
  • When you hop – tuck one knee in towards the chest. The tucking action will help center and align the body which makes it easier to balance up there.

*A tip for tucking the knee – imagine there’s a towel between the upper thigh and hip and you can’t let it fall. This will remind the body to engage, squeeze, and activate the core muscles. And if you really want to imagine it, place a towel there!

Yoga Tutorial: How to Do a Handstand

6. Handstand

Once all of the above has been practiced again and again, then it’s time to go for it.  A straight up and down, balance in the air like you don’t care, handstand.

Eeeeeeek! Are you ready for this?

Tips & Tricks:

  • Do everything that was listed above for the knee tuck variation.
  • Once you’re balancing in the pose, slowly lift the tucked leg and begin to straighten it. Move slow!
  • As you straighten the legs and bring them together, remember to engage and activate every single muscle. Each and every muscle has to work together here to maintain the posture.
  • Flex through the feet and fan the toes out.
  • Zip up through the midline, let it support you, let it neutralize the posture, let it be your guide here.
  • Continue locking eyes with the chosen point and BREATHE.

Yoga Tutorial: How to Do a Handstand

Handstands don’t happen overnight and for most of us, they won’t happen for months or even years. The key to this posture is to enjoy the journey – learn from each mistake, get back up when you fall, and trust in the process.

The body is a miraculous specimen that can be taught anything with patience, persistence, and a whole lotta faith. I challenge you to try this pose, work on each of the prep postures, and then get upside down!

Until next time – xoxo.

Hey! I’m Allie.

I’m a self-growth student, freedom-seeker, yoga teacher and the founder of a tight-knit online yoga community: the Body Mind Soul Studio. I’m here to teach you how to transform your life on-and-off-the-mat with a holistic yoga practice.

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If your practice has waned, if your yoga journey feels lonely or you like the way I share yoga’s teachings, then this is where you need to be. Join me once a month, for free, to practice yoga as a community.