• Man does handstand on stairs.

    Heart over head: The effects of handstands on body and mind.

    Children are all for it, but most adults are not too keen when it comes to letting their feet leave the ground. This is exactly the reason why it is a good idea to practice handstands every once in a while.

    Text: Rebecca Randak

No excuses.

There are those moments in yoga class when people start to murmur and half of those attending look around the room in a mixture of panic, nervousness and helplessness. It’s time for the next posture: the handstand. Or another asana – as the body postures are called in yoga – in which you have stretch your legs up into the air in order to balance upside down for a while. Many people stiffen up merely at the thought of their feet leaving the ground. “I don’t have any strength in my arms!” or “I can’t do it!” are the usual arguments as to why you have to skip the handstand exercise today.

Man does handstand in front of apartments.
Man does handstand on stairs.

Your mind, and not your body, is holding you back.

Of course there are physical reasons for not being able to do a handstand. A damaged wrist or shoulder injury, for example. But in most cases the problem is not caused by physical restrictions: it is our mind that is putting a stick in our wheel.

Have confidence in your own strength.

The great yoga master B. K. S. Iyengar once explained that the brain is the hardest part of the body to train. This is particularly true in relation to the handstand: on a physical level, it is a relatively simple asana which should be fairly easy to perform for a person in good health: there is no need for any contortions or over-stretching – you simply have to turn your body upside down. Trusting your hands, instead of your feet, to carry your own weight is a completely different story.

Man does handstand in front of orange column.
  • Man does handstand in front of a colourful wall.

Why it makes sense to practice handstands.

Although yogis and yoginis are often very wary of inverted positions, particularly the handstand, they are also very proud when they manage to stand on their head or hands for the very first time. After all, they experience what it is like to achieve what seemed impossible, which is confidence building and helps to change their perspective in a figurative sense too: by pushing one’s own limits, our mind opens up and allows us to be more composed when faced with new situations in everyday life.

Especially for “head persons”, inverted positions are a godsend: literally putting your heart over your head can be a good trick for getting to grips with thoughts that have been nagging you. Besides, isn’t it true that the best decisions are made by following your heart?

Man does handstand on bar.

Exercise for body and mind.

While the handstand has a positive effect on our mind, the physical benefits should also not be underestimated: the handstand helps to strengthen our shoulders, arms and wrists and also opens up the ribcage. What’s more, it acts as a natural stimulant: especially when performed in the morning, it has an effect similar to a strong espresso. Maybe many decades have passed since you last tried a handstand. But that’s no reason for never trying it again. The pleasure of balancing your body on your hands isn’t just reserved for children. And if you’re not confident enough to try it on your own at home, why not sign up for a yoga course and experience the dynamic flow of Vinyasa yoga. There you can take a step-by-step approach to the “heart over head” project with the help of a qualified yoga teacher.