Ask the handstand gurus

Paige Wyatt is our expert handstand guru. She lives in beautiful Santa Cruz, California, where she demonstrates a passion and devotion for yoga. Paige is trained in the Forrest Yoga and AcroYoga methods. She has studied yoga with Ana Forrest, Jonathon Bowra, and Judith Hanson Lasater. Paige teaches Vinyasa Flow and AcroYoga in Santa Cruz, and travels nationally to conduct demonstrations and workshops. In addition, Paige serves on the board of directors for the Green Yoga Association, and is a member of Yogaslackers, a group that practices yoga while suspended on tightropes. A gymnast since she was 4 years old, Paige learned how to invert before she learned how to do math. Handstands and other advanced inversions continue to be an important part of her yoga practice.

Eugene Ahn is our enthusiast handstand guru. He discovered a love for doing handstands through yoga, and credits yoga practice with showing him the way to maintaining the upside-down posture. He completed YogaWorks Teacher Training and has even taught a little, but maintains his interest in yoga and handstanding is mostly personal.

Questions and answers about handstanding

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Jessica asks: What is the world record for the most handstands in a day?

Eugene answers: Good question Jessica! Did you read about the 20,478 people who did handstands at the same time to capture the world handstand record? This happened Saturday, September 17, 2011. They were trying to re-take the record on behalf of United States handstanding. Previously the record was 2,402 handstands done by Australia.

Blanc says: Hi! Should your bodyweight really be concentrated on the center of your hands (knuckle area) when you are in a handstand position? I keep practicing the handstand trying to shift my weight on that area and to my fingers, but I always end up shifting my weight to my fingers and to the heels of my palms. Many thanks in advance!

Eugene answers: Blanc, the answer is yes, the ridge-tops of your palms -- which to be clear are the areas opposite your knuckles -- are bearing most of your weight in handstand. To understand how the human body maintains balance, try standing on your feet and visualizing what is happening down there at the soles of your feet. Your weight is being distributed across the balls of your feet, the outer edges of your feet, and to your heels. Ideally, the balls of your feet hold most of this weight because this is the best way to actively manage weight distribution to maintain balance. Your toes get involved, of course, and that's how we achieve precision balance. What happens in our standing feet is a model of what should be happening in our handstand hands. The ridge-tops of the palms are our hands' equivalent for the balls of the feet. Directing weight into the ridge-tops of the hands gives the handstander more opportunity to control and distribute weight into the outer edge of the palms, the palm heels, and the fingers. The fact that you want to hold handstand with your fingers and palm heels indicates your body already wants to practice the finer details of balance. Sending more of your weight to your ridge-tops will help you do that. You might try directing your gaze forward when you do handstand, letting your chin follow your gaze, as this will help your body weight shift forward in general.

Lee asks: Is a headstand considered a handstand? When does one become the other?

Paige answers: The answer to this question is decidedly no. A handstand and a headstand are quite different indeed. A headstand is performed with the practitioners head on the ground with hands in a tripod position or clasped behind the head for classical headstand. A handstand is performed with the hands on the ground and the arms straight. The head is nowhere near the ground. The practitioner is balancing on the hands and not on the head.

Master Class: There are fun ways to combine the two such as pressing to handstand from headstand. It can take a long time for some to work up to this advanced variation and for others not long at all. To work towards this variation start with your head resting on a block in headstand balancing against the wall. Then begin to press yourself up to handstand. You should be very proficient in both headstand and handstand in the middle of the room before trying this variation. In partner acrobatics we have a move called foot to head where the flyer is balancing on their head on the foot of their base. I would call this a combination of headstand and handstand as well because you are using a lot of hand to hand action. To try this advanced partner acrobatic move you should be very proficient at Star. From Star the base moves one foot to the center of the flyers head. The flyer has to stay really straight and strong. You can NOT let your neck bend. You must keep a lot of your weight pressing down into the bases hands and stay incredibly strong in your core. Once you are balanced the other foot of the base comes off of the shoulder and you are balancing in foot to head. To get out you would come back to star (or just come down, dismounting over the bases head).

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