Tag Archives: Handstand

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Graceful Yogi

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Inversion Tips from Graceful Yogi

Be brave. Most people like to use the wall to get comfortable with the structure of the pose and practice getting your hips over your shoulders. A note of caution, though: the wall can become a security blanket to the point that you can execute a pose next to the wall without touching the wall, but you can’t execute it in the middle of the room because you don’t have the wall for comfort. Once you start getting comfortable with the pose and using the wall less, get away from the wall and start practicing in the middle of the room. Falling down is encouraged! 
Exit strategies. if you feel your weight starting to get too far behind you, contract your abdominals to come out of the backbend a little and bring your feet back down to Dolphin, one at a time; if it’s too late for that, press down into your hands as if you’re pressing into handstand and let your feet come down behind you into Urdvha Danurasana. If you’re really falling down in a crazy direction and you’re headed for the floor, TUCK YOUR CHIN to protect your neck.
Building strength and muscle memory. Bakasana is a good arm balance to start getting used to bringing your weight forward over your hands and stacking your joints; it also builds great core strength and awareness.
Build strength in your shoulders and upper back. Swimming Dolphin: Start in Dolphin; on an exhale, shift forward bringing your heart over your hands but keeping your hips high; as you inhale, press back to Dolphin. Repeat at least 4x. This exercise is not very comfortable, so I like to actually imagine myself as a swimming dolphin in the ocean and put a big Flipper smile on my face. Sounds goofy, but it works!
Practice courage, get your hips over your shoulders. To practice getting your hips over your shoulders, try some 3-legged Dolphin hops: Start in Dolphin with your right leg lifted high like 3-legged Dog; start to shift forward over your forearms, rolling your left heel off the floor, working toward only the tip of your big toe on the ground. Remember to send energy out through your right toes to lengthen and lighten your whole body. Be sure to try it on both sides (it’s good to put these at the end of a vinyasa sequence so that you have a little rest between right side and left side). Once your comfortable with heel-raises, move on to hops. Start with the same action but as you roll the heel off the ground, press off through the ball of your foot and find a moment of balance before bringing your foot back to the floor. If you need a little momentum to find liftoff, you can bend your knee a little to give yourself an extra push toward lifting your foot off the floor.
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Michelle Chambers

I have always been in love with movement, using all of my being to express an emotion, an idea, a prayer. I did this through ballet for many years, until my body decided yoga was a better idea. I soon discovered that yoga was therapeutic not only for my aching back and joints, but also for my mind and even my soul. As I grew in my physical practice, I began to explore each asana as a means of expressing the love and gratitude in my heart. Inspired by this flow of grace, I completed a Vinyasa yoga teacher training with Silvia Mordini to share the freedom and joy of movement through the physical, mental, and spiritual practice of yoga. 
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Handstand Challenge


Handstands and inversions in general have always been a problem for me. I’m not sure if it’s self trust, or just fear of having my hips over my shoulders, but I’ll elaborate that in a future post.

I’ve studied friends in inversions carefully and taken various workshops to try to get over the wall, but I can’t seem to shake the heaviness that I feel when I try them. Even jumping forward, I can’t seem to shake the fear of putting the weight of my body into my hands. I excel at low-to-the-ground arm balances, but when it comes to throwing my limbs in the air, it feels exhausting and out of reach.

Today I found this article via twitter from the folks over at Mind Body Green written by Lara Heimann:

Handstand Therapy:
1. Get on all fours and push down into your hands as you lift your belly up. Gently lift the knees off the ground and hover, challenging the arms and core. Lower the knees and repeat 5-10 times.
2. In Down Dog, walk your feet forward 6-12 inches, press into your hands, and keep your collarbones spread. Then walk your feet back. Repeat five times, keeping your hands fully pressed into the floor the whole time.
3. For Down Dog on the wall, first come into a Down Dog with your heels touching the wall. Walk your feet up, ideally at a 90-degree angle. With your neck relaxed and arms pressed straight, roll your biceps in and pull your front ribs and low belly toward your back. Hold 15 seconds, increasing the duration to progress. You’ll likely shake, but this means you’re truly building the strength that you need to hold a handstand off the wall.
4. In standing split, keep your top leg at a 90-degree angle, with your toes facing the floor. Cobra the spine forward, gazing out slightly. Press down into your hands, lift your belly up, and lightly press your bottom foot down to push off. Do not kick your top leg. Focus on pressing down into your hands to get off the ground.
Handstands are fun, and are great for the body and the brain. So go and play!
I am going to make my best effort to practice these techniques at home a couple times a week, and I’d love for you to join me! I need to challenge myself to develop the muscle memory to improve my inversions, even though #3 is my least favorite thing to do and the cause of a near panic attack most of the time. But hey- getting out of the comfort zone is where the magic happens, right?
Handstand inspiration from Kinetic Vigilantes:
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sex cells

Last post I talked about was about some real, honest-to-goodness, less than perfect bodies doing yoga. Now let’s talk about this controversial video posted by Equinox, a luxury gym popular in Los Angeles and New York. Briohny Smyth is the scantily clad yoga instructor featured in the video that has put a bee in the bonnet of the yoga community.

It has to be said- the yoga in this video is remarkable. Her body is flawless and her alignment is outstanding. Some of the things she does seem to defy gravity, and personally it inspires me to work harder to experience these amazing benefits that yoga allows. I am not prudey, I think her body is a work of art and it was probably a serious, conscious decision to dress her like she is. I don’t know why anybody would be offended by that aspect of the video- if you’ve got HBO you’ve seen worse.

Yoga being accessible to everyone is important. I don’t want anyone to feel intimidated by these beautiful freaks of nature like  Briohny Smyth. Yoga is not just for fit, flexible, skinny people. However we must consider who Equinoxs’ audience is. Equinox is known for its cutting edge workout strategies, (IntenSati, Urban Rebounding) and a plethora of ‘celebrity’ trainers and yogis such as Smyth. They attract the wealthy, athletic individual who wishes to perfect his or her body in an ilitest environment. That, to me, is far from the intention of yoga.

So it seems, it all depends on your perspective. I see it as inspiring and artful, while people considering beginning a yoga practice may find it intimidating. I hope all viewers can keep an open mind and maintain sense of self while watching this. Cheesy as it is- I like to respect that my yoga practice is a journey, not a destination. It makes accomplishing goals more gratifying and helps me appreciate all of the small successes along the way.

Someday I’ll have a perfect handstand, until then, I’ll work with what I’ve got.

What do you think?

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Mick Jagger in Salamba Sarvangasana

Uttanita: to stretch or open your perspective by looking at something in a new way.

The simplest way for me to think of the benefits of inversions is to think of gravity. All day we walk around on our two feet, our hearts pumping blood upwards to our brain. It sounds like a lot of work. In college I would spend hours a day sitting in front of a computer and feel completely useless and stale after about 3pm. When we go upside in poses such as headstand, handstand, shoulder stand, down dog and plow, fresh oxygenated blood runs to our head and rejuvenates us. This weekend I took an inversions workshop at Haute Yoga Queen Anne and learned all about the benefits of turning your perspective upside down.

My favorite benefits of inversions:

Can reduce shrinking. Most people will lose from 1/2 inch – 2 inches in height during their lifetime because of thinning discs. An active inversion program can help maintain more of your original height by keeping the discs in your spine supple. I am only 5’2″ I can’t afford to lose any of that.

Improve balance and body awareness. Inversion helps to develop balance awareness, which occurs when the upper regions of the inner ear are stimulated.

Strengthens the core.  Core strength is necessary to stabilize yourself upside down. Practicing inversions force you to engage your core so you don’t topple over, which gives you a six pack, which in turn makes you look like a bad ass. WIN.

Enhances ability to concentrate and remain focused. Inversions help increase oxygen flow to the brain, which consumes 25 percent of the body’s oxygen intake. Working on headstands and handstands builds up those focus and concentration muscles. My fear of falling in class keeps my focus in check in tri-pod headstand. Practicing focus and concentration on your mat will train your brain to stay engaged when it wants to wander.


  • Keep your core and ‘bandhas‘ strong to stay balanced. This will keep everything drawing to your centerline so you don’t look like a twizzler.
  • Breathe/meditate all of your nervous energy out so you aren’t over eager to kick in and out of balance. Do some sun salutations, smoke a joint, shake it out.
  • Use  a yoga buddy or wall to spot you so you don’t break your neck. Use a mirror: Come to three legged dog and look at your feet. If either are splayed or bowed, that’s the direction your leg will want to go in head/handstand. Practice with a straight line of energy from your head to your toe.
  • Think about where you are going. Don’t go on vacation to hawaii and bring a down jacket. Envision where your body wants to go in the pose and move there in a controlled, slow, observant way.
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