Why should we practice handstands other than being a cool party trick?
Honestly, I think handstands have helped me the most with falling! This sounds crazy, but hear me out. Have you ever tripped or taken a tumble and then that crash hurt every part of your body? Well, as a gymnast, we become very skilled at falling and the foundation of that is with a handstand. We learn how to roll safely out of a handstand without crashing to our backs, shoulders or most importantly our heads. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve tripped or fallen off my bike or been hiking where I was so thankful I knew how to fall. Especially as people get older, knowing how to properly fall can greatly decrease injuries.
- HEALTH BENEFITS
I don’t know of any actual studies on health benefits, but Greg Glassman, the founder of CrossFit has a great article about the importance of handstands or “hand balancing.” In it, he notes the most obvious reason to do handstands are for increased balance and shoulder strength, but he goes on to say that handstands help “proprioception and core strength in a way other protocols cannot.” Basically, most people spend two thirds of their lives right side up, but whenever they are thrown into space their kinesthetic responses would be vastly different from those of a gymnast simply because gymnasts have trained themselves physically and psychologically how to respond when upside down or tossed about!
- YOU’RE NOT ALONE ANYMORE
Thanks to the growing movement to be upside down in yoga and CrossFit, I’m no longer considered weird when I have a desire to stand on my hands!! So neither should you for wanting to learn. CrossFit has tons of handstand push ups, handstand walks and other body weight conditioning incorporated in it. My background in gymnastics definitely helped me to excel in the sport, not only in the body weight movements, but weight lifting came to me more easily because I was used to having to get my body quickly into different positions. I think practicing handstands can help with an overall awareness of your body and how it moves in any sport or in life in general!
- AWARENESS IN SPACE
Beginners: you might get dizzy and that’s normal. Always start with your arms straight! If you try to bend and then press them out as you kick up, you will come crashing down. Practice falling even before you kick up. Do some forward rolls so you have an awareness of how to tuck your head and protect your neck. Or walk up the wall the first few times and get used to being upside down.
Experienced handstanders: look at your hands when you walk on them or if want to break your record on your handstand hold. Just as you wouldn’t look at the ceiling when you walked across a log, you shouldn’t look at your feet or out into space as you hold a handstand. Look at the ground right between your hands!
IF YOU’RE REALLY NEW…
Start on something soft, like an 8 inch mat or a panel mat or have a spotter. Take an adult gymnastics class. (I’ve seen them all over the county for about $15 a class). Even just putting your feet up on a box or couch and lifting one leg in the air and then the other is a great place to start!
Okay! Get out there and start getting upside down!!!