Handstands-The Middle Position

Practicing the “Middle Position”

In martial arts, the middle position is a place where we have the most options available to us. Depending on our environment, our opponent or our partner and even ourselves, our middle position may vary.

Being Able to Respond to Change

Generally whenever we respond to a change we have to leave the middle position. If after having responded to a change we return to the middle, we are then ready to handle any new changes as they occur. Being in the middle position makes it easier to respond to a change no matter where it comes from or what form it takes. Being in the middle gives us options, possibilities. If we continually return to the middle after having ventured away from it, we can be ready to handle new change.

Being Able to Create Change

If we are creating change without having to worry about external factors then finding the middle position, and returning to it, we can continue to create change and we can be fully flexible in the change that we create. To create the change that we desire we need to be in a position that is stable, balanced.

Even if we are moving to a position that is unstable, starting from a position that is stable will allow us to move to the new position more easily.

The middle position is the stable center that we can start from.

Having Options

In handstands, the middle position or middle handstand is a position from which we can do the most things. If we jump up into a handstand and keep our legs at the same level as the pelvis with knees either straight, bent or just slightly bent, and we can balance, then from this position we can easily pull our legs up into full handstand. We can also drop down with control into chataranga dandasana (A push up position with the elbows bent.) We can lower our feet to the floor between our hands as if jumping forwards from down dog. We can even swing our legs through our hands so that we end up sitting.

Practicing the middle position we make it easier for ourselves to do handstand, we also make it easier to do Ashtanga style sun salutations, Vinyasas, and Arm Balances as well. As an example of the latter, from the middle position we could lower down into Bakasana.

Going into the middle position we give ourselves the option of moving into anyone of these poses should we choose. Or we can simply hold it.

Moving into the Middle and Out of it

In the video I jump into middle position and from there alternate putting my feet down or pulling them up. This is an exercise I can use in my classes to teach the benefits and flexibility of this position.

In the video, I don’t quite actually make the middle position on my first jump… bad teacher! On the last jump I swing my legs through my hands… only my feet get stuck along the way! Oh well.

I could have crossed my ankles to have given myself the clearance but didn’t. If I ever do get the jump through then I would like to do it with my legs straight and ankles uncrossed and so not crossing my ankles is the way I am working towards that.

As a final note, If we can move into this position and hold it we are more likely to be able to maintain balance or a floating like quality even as we move out of it. Also, in the video I jump into it from down dog. We can also pull up into it from the forward bend position.

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Practicing the “Middle Position”

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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