Handstands-Jumping Up from Down Dog

Jumping up into handstand from downward facing dog, the first thing that we can focus on once we jump is on getting our shoulders over our hands and slightly forwards of them.


Positioning the Shoulders

In order to balance we need to get our center of gravity over our hands. Our center of gravity is mainly focused in our pelvis. However, when jumping up our legs may be trailing behind our pelvis so that our body forms a inverted L shape. To balance the weight of our legs and our pelvis over our hands it is handy to have our shoulders vertically just in front of our hands.

We can practice this even before we jump my moving our shoulders forwards while our feet are on the ground. (If your downward dog is really long you might need to bring your feet forwards slightly.) From downwards dog then practice moving your shoulders forwards so that they are slightly in front of your hands. Then move back. Practice this enough times that you get used to putting your shoulders in this position. In addition, use your eyes to see when your shoulders are there.

After that you can practice a few test jumps in front of a wall if you like, to get used to jumping and placing your shoulders there. So that you don’t get tired out, try jumping up with an inhale and coming down while exhaling. Also practice smoothly using your legs to jump up.


Using the Abs to Unify Ribcage and Pelvis

So that it is easier to control our body, we can use our abs to “unify” ribcage and pelvis. Squeezing our abs to lock ribcage and pelvis together, our upper body is that much easier to control and balance over our hands then if our ribcage and pelvis act independently.

For the next practice, move forwards from down do with abs engaged. you can release them when moving back. At the same time move your shoulders so that they are forwards of your hands and then move them back.


Feeling our Center

Jumping up from down dog, once our feet leave the floor we can allow our knees to bend and we can focus on getting our pelvis over our shoulders so that our spine is vertical. Remember to keep the abs engaged. So that we can feel when our center of gravity is over our hands we can use our hands.

As an example using our feet, we can rock forwards so that we can feel our weight over the fronts of our feet. We can then rock backwards to feel our weight over our heels. Being able to use our feet to feel where our weight is we can fine tune how far forwards or backwards we rock.

Using our hands to stand on, we can position our weight slightly forwards so that it is over the fronts of our hands and our fingers press into the floor.

We can practice rocking in and out of Bakasana (crow pose) to practice using our hands to feel where our center is.

If we start of in a deep squat with our heels close together and our feet turned out, we can place our upper arms in front of our shins. From here we can practice rocking back and forwards just on our feet. Next we can lift our hips high, place our hands on the floor and press our shins against the back of our upper arms. We can rock forwards on to the fronts of our feet and then further forwards so that our weight is on our hands. In case you roll forwards, make sure that there is nothing in front of you that will cause a painful landing.

Practice rocking forwards and backwards slowly, and at the same time use your feet and hands to notice your weight shifting from your feet to your hands and back again.

Memorize the feeling of having your weight on your hands.


Jumping Up

And so the final step is to practice this when jumping up. I’d suggest jumping up while using a wall to help “catch” you.

Position your finger tips about 4 inches away from the wall and make sure that there is nothing on the wall or either side of you that could cause injury should you fall.

When jumping, first focus on getting your shoulders slightly in front of your hands. Remember to engage your abs. Then focus on getting your pelvis and legs over your hands.

If you can balance in this position, then you might try lifting your legs up into full handstand. As you lift your legs you can move your shoulders so that they are over your hands. Do these two actions together so that you stay balanced. Use your hands so that you can feel where your center is and so that you can keep it over your hands.


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Feel Your Body-Move Slowly and Relax

One of the reasons for feeling the body is so that we can notice when it feels good and enjoy the feeling. Another reason is so that we can notice when there is a lack of sensation. Yet another reason is so that we can learn how the parts of ourselves relate.

If we don’t have a clear idea of what we are trying to do, then by feeling our body in whatever we are doing, we can notice how we feel and in the process gain experience.

As we gain more and more experience we’ll be better able to develop a clear idea of what we want to do.

If we have a clear idea of how we want our body positioned or how we want it to move, then if we feel our body while moving it, we can check to see if what is actually happening matches up to what we want to happen.  We can then make changes where necessary.

Moving Slowly and Smoothly-

So that we can feel our body while we are moving it, one of the things that we can do while moving from one position to another is move slowly and smoothly. Yet another thing that we can do is relax our body as much as possible given what we are trying to do.

Generally the slower and smoother we move the easier it is to feel our body. Actually, in order to move slowly most of us have to focus on what we are doing. So say we are in a lunge and we want to lift our back knee and then lower it. To do this requires awareness, not only of the knee we are moving but the front foot as well since we are using it to help us balance.

In this case the slower we move the more we have to feel our body so we can tell that we are moving slowly.

If in addition to moving slowly, we are as relaxed as possible given what we are trying to do, then the actual process of making sure that we are relaxed is a way of feeling our body. Plus, the more relaxed we are the easier it is to sense tension in our connective tissue and via that tension the weight of whatever body part is hanging downwards.

Tai Ji

Practicing Tai Ji I use my feet to tell me when I have shifted fully from one position to another. I can feel when my weight is fully on one foot, or when body has shifted so that the front and heel of my front foot are pressing down evenly. Part of this is relaxing my feet enough that I can notice changes in pressure where my foot contacts the floor.

Another part of this is “shaping” or positioning my foot so that it is naturally stable. Yet another part is moving slowly enough so that I have time to both feel what my feet are telling me and to respond to what I sense.

Being able to feel my feet I can use them to tell me which foot my center is over and exactly where in relation to my feet my center is. I can then tell when my center is where I want it to be.

Applying this to a static yoga pose like Warrior 1, I can try bending my front knee. As I do so, if I feel the forces acting through my front foot I can move my foot forwards more or back so that those forces press evenly through the front and back of that foot. When this happens I’ve got a pretty good indication that my shin is vertical or that my knee is over my foot.

Yoga

Carrying this body awareness upwards from my feet, I can then focus on feeling my pelvis and hips. I can either pull my front leg hip back or my back leg hip forwards so that my hips are square to the front. (I’m still in Warrior 1 pose.) I can then adjust my feet accordingly so that there is even pressure through the front and heel of the front foot and through the inner and outer arch of the back foot.

For a more finely tuned pose, I can brace my front foot so that my front leg acts like a buttress for the pelvis, and then I can relax my hip muscles so that my pelvis “naturally” faces the front.

Practicing Slow Movement So That We Have the Option of Moving Fast

Having practiced feeling my body while moving slowly, it is then easier to carry that feeling into doing movements quickly. I can practice a Tai Ji sequence quickly while carrying the same feeling from doing it slowly. Or I can enter straight into a pose like Warrior 1 and find the sweet spot immediately without all the fiddling around.

Making Muscle Tissue Smart

Focusing on feeling, whether moving slowly or quickly, the sensation or experience is of the parts of the body positioning themselves. Muscle memory kicks in. However, this can be more than the muscles following the same groove over and over again. It is the muscles finding the best groove depending on what is happening at the time. We give our muscles a rudimentary intelligence or consciousness so that they can respond in the best way possible depending on the circumstances as they are now.

The smarter we make our muscles and the parts of our body in general, the easier it then is to get our body to do what we want it to do. We can then lead our body by looking for the feeling of what we are trying to do, or by simply having a clear idea.