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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Handstands-Jumping Up and Pulling Up

Half handstand: notice the angle of my arms and the position of shoulders and pelvis relative to my wrists

Half handstand: notice the angle of my arms and the position of shoulders and pelvis relative to wri

Handstand-Notice relationship of shoulders, pelvis and legs to hands.

Handstand-Notice relationship of shoulders, pelvis and legs to hands.

Half handstand: notice the angle of my arms and the position of shoulders and pelvis relative to wri

Half handstand from down dog: notice the relationship of my upper body to my hands

Jumping up into handstand from downwards dog, as we jump we can try to first get our shoulders slightly ahead of our wrists. With our shoulders ahead of our wrists we can then focus on getting our pelvis forwards and up so that it is over our shoulders. With our pelvis over our shoulders so that our torso is vertical, we can adjust the position of our shoulders so that our upper body is balanced over our hands.


Options and Understanding

The reason for positioning the shoulders in this way is to make it easier to get our center of gravity over our hands with our spine straight.

If however, we jump with our spine bent backwards we might then be able to get our center of gravity over our hands while keeping the shoulders over the hands. In either (any) case, we have to get our center of gravity over our hands in order to balance.


Half Handstand-the Middle Position

So that this is easier to practice we can focus on jumping up to a “half-handstand” where the knees are bent. Once we can do this consistently and easily we can then focus on moving up into full handstand. We can also swing the legs down or forwards into sitting from this position and we can reach the legs back and chest forwards while lowering down into Chaturanga Dandasana.


Using the Eyes and Hands to Sense

While jumping we can use our eyes to see how our shoulders and hands relate. We can then see when we get our shoulders where we want them to be, over and then slightly in front of our hands. At the same time we can use our hands to feel when our center of gravity is over our hands by feeling the way our weight presses down through them.

Pulling up into handstand from a standing forward bend, we can position our center of gravity over our hands before we lift up. That way we are already balanced. We can move our shoulders forwards so that our pelvis is over our hands. We can push through our arms prior to lifting our feet so that our arms bear some of our weight. We can then engage our abs so that our ribcage and pelvis are unified. We can then use our shoulders to help push our pelvis upwards-to take the weight of our body.

Pushing down with our hands and keeping our shoulders forwards, we can lift our hips and get our feet off of the ground. We can then bend our knees to lift our feet higher.

We may also then choose to lift our knees. From there, keeping our center over our foundation we can then move up into handstand.


Learning from Failure

In the first part of this video you see me pull up and then hold with my knees bent. From there I then straighten my legs upwards. I subsequently fall for no apparent reason.

At any rate, we can still use this to learn from. For example, when I pause with my knees bent, my shoulders are in front of my hands. Notice the angle of my arms! Also, my spine is vertical. In this position at least I am balanced. My center of gravity is over my hands!

Just prior to falling my legs are straight and my shoulders, hips and legs are all aligned over my hands… Which begs the question, why did I fall. I felt a small perturbation and got scared. Plus I forgot to check my relationship to those bits of pipe sticking out of the ground before I jumped. I didn’t want to fall and land backwards on anything.


Angling the Arms

In the second part of the video I jump up into half handstand from down dog and I hold it. You can again see the angle of my arms and how that helps be to get my upper body balanced over my hands.
(I then try to get my legs up but without success.)


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