Yoga in a GIF-y: Adho Mukha Vrkshasana variation

Whether you’re into yoga, CrossFit or gymnastics, handstands are ever-present across the board.

In Sanskrit the posture is referred to as Adho Mukha Vrksasana, downward facing tree, reflecting its rooted quality and strength.

Not only is a handstand impressive to look at, it’s also one of the most effective yoga poses to quiet the mind - there’s just too much going on for your thoughts to be able to distract you.

The most common reaction I get when teaching handstands in class is, “I don’t have enough arm strength.” I’m here to tell you it takes a lot more than strong arms to get you into a handstand.

First and foremost, it takes courage - courage to do something even when it’s scary - and trust in your body’s capabilities. Handstands have the ability to bring instant awareness into the body, from the tips of your fingers up to the tips of your toes.

This week we’ll explore my favorite variation which uses the support of a doorframe and helps build your courage, trust, awareness and, inevitably, arm strength.

Door sizes vary so I encourage you to try this in a few doorways until you find one that’s wide enough to accommodate the length of your straight legs. The door photographed above is a little too narrow for my frame so my knees are slightly bent - a great alternative if you don’t have access to wide doorways.

Here’s a step-by step guide:

  1. Frame the door with your hands. Have them as wide as your shoulders, fingers spreading and rooting into the floor.

  2. Place the back of your head and upper back against one side of the door frame and your heels against the other side.

  3. Lift the shoulder blades up towards your hips and spread them wide across your back to create a strong foundation for your handstand.

  4. Start walking your feet up the doorframe until your body forms an L-shape. The back of the pelvis will rest against the door, stacked directly over the shoulders.

  5. Hold the pose for 5 cycles of breath without collapsing in the shoulders.

  6. If at any point you feel the shoulders losing their stability, slowly walk your feet down and come out of the pose.

  7. Once you feel comfortable with the L-shape, you can experiment with straightening one leg over your hips.