“Lately it occurs to me, what a long strange trip it’s been….” — Grateful Dead
Miriam Webster defines journey as: something suggesting travel or passage from one place to another. When you consider that my quest to do handstands went from one place (not able to kick up at the wall) to another (kicking up into handstands away from the wall), this has, indeed been a journey. And now, more than eight years later, I’ve come up with a list of things one needs to pack for this long, strange, exhilarating, trip toward accomplishing a handstand.
- Upper body strength: This is a bit of a catch-22 in that handstands help build your upper body strength, but until you’ve strengthened your arms, hands, and core enough to keep from collapsing into your shoulders, a handstand won’t happen. Best course of action — work up to holding a plank pose for a least one minute, and once you’re kicking up to the wall, hold for at least 30 seconds to build good shoulder, wrist, and hand strength.
- Patience: Chances are, handstand will not happen as quickly as you want — at least it didn’t for me, or anyone else I know. So if you set a goal of nailing a handstand within a certain time period (especially if that goal is for weeks instead of months) and then don’t hit it, you’ll probably become impatient with the whole process and find yourself giving up. I admit that after weeks turned into months, and months turned into years, I didn’t understand why it was taking so darn long to do something I had set my mind to, and wanted so badly. Good things do come to those who keep trying — but be ready to accept that there may be delays, there’s no point beating yourself up over it, and at some point a handstand is going to happen.
- Determination: The definition of determination is firm or fixed intention to achieve a desired end (Miriam Webster) and let me just tell you that you need plenty of it! It was my determination that kept me going when I’d lose patience or begin wondering if I was ever going to get better. I’d been practicing yoga for more than 10 years when I began my handstand journey and was proficient at numerous arm balances. Why couldn’t I do this one stinking pose? It was determination that kept me going when I felt like giving up.
- Persistent Practice: LOTS of practice! And by practice I mean kicking up over and over and over again, at the wall, away from the wall, every single day (sometimes twice), even if it means getting up early so you can carve out as much time as possible in a day that is probably already full of work, kids, and other projects. We’ve all heard practice makes perfect. My handstand is nowhere near perfect, but I know that persistently practicing every day has absolutely, positively made it better.
- Handstand buddy: I noticed real progress in my handstand when I began practicing with my friend Julie. Her handstand was already better than mine, but because we shared the same passion for this pose, we worked together on new drills and held each other accountable. We watched and shared IG videos, critiqued each other’s handstands, and celebrated one another’s successes. There’s nothing wrong with flying solo, but having a buddy makes the journey that much better.
I could probably come up with a list of 22 things to help with handstanding, but these five stand out as most important. And I say you need them to do a handstand, but with the exception of upper body strength, don’t we need them for anything important in life? Patience for when things don’t happen as quickly as we like, determination to keep trying even when things get difficult, practicing to show improvement in any skill, and a buddy with similar interests who also pushes us to do better? Sure, I probably possessed all these things before I started hardstanding, but I know this journey has made them/me/my handstand even better.
Thank you for reading this post. Please share with others if you like what I wrote.