Woman practicing L Handstand Yoga Pose after doing prep sequence

Make "L" Handstand Accessible: 4 Yoga Poses to Build Your Skills

By: 
Allison Schleck ERYT-500, RPYT

“L” Handstand is an introductory inverted pose for seasoned practitioners that builds strength, stability, and stamina. It is the midway point between standing on your feet in Tadasana (Mountain Pose) and standing on your hands in Adho Mukha Vrksasana (Handstand Pose).

Methodically approaching the “L” Handstand gives the practitioner a sense of understanding and security going upside down rather than a feeling of pressure to go up or rest in another pose while the rest of the class practices. In this article, I will go over four accessible ways to learn “L” Handstand which will foster a unique learning experience that most yoga practitioners can access and practice to get to “L” Handstand. These components can also give everyone something useful to practice as an alternative to more challenging inversions.

Supine “L” Handstand
Supine Handstand at the Wall

Working supinely builds body awareness in a grounded position. Generally, this position is called Supta Padanghusthasana (Supine Hand-to-Big-Toe Pose). Most of the elements that you would practice in “L” Handstand can be practiced here. What is amazing is that the same deepening directives can be used in both poses such as deepening the hip creases, firming the arms and pressing through the feet. For this version, use a block and a wall.

  1. Lie down on your back with your head facing the wall.

  2. Measure your distance from the wall by lifting your arms overhead. Fingertips should touch the wall. The arms will not look exactly like Handstand arms but relatively similar. If you don’t have access to a wall, use a bolster as your wall.

  3. Release your arms down by your sides. Bend your right knee into your chest and place a block on the sole of your foot. Press the block up toward the ceiling.woman practicing supine half L-handstand with a block and the wall

  4. Straighten your left leg and lift your arms overhead.

  5. You are in half of an “L” handstand. Your right leg is the leg that would be on the wall.

  6. Press your foot firmly into the block as you press your fingers into the wall/bolster.

  7. Notice the position of your body and visualize what this would feel like upside down.

  8. Lower your arms, bend your right knee and place your leg on the floor. Practice the other side.

“L” Handstand in Tadasana

woman practicing preparation for handstand standing with arms over head in L-position with one leg on the wall

Once your body has the imprint of the shape of “L” Handstand, then we can add balance and strength into the equation. For this version have a strap and a yoga block. A wall is optional.

  1. Stand one leg’s distance away from the wall (if using) in Tadasana.

  2. Make a loop in your strap. Fasten the buckle to whatever size the loop needs to be to keep your arms parallel when the strap is one inch above your elbows. Then place the strap above your elbows and hold the block between your hands.

  3. Press your upper arms out against the strap and then elevate the block. This will assist you in shoulder flexion, protraction, and the upward rotation of the shoulder blades. All essential elements in “L” handstand.

  4. Bend your right knee and either straighten the leg (very intense) or place your foot on the wall (less intense but can be more useful for understanding the actions of “L” handstand in a closed chain position)

  5. Press through your heel as you direct your right sit bone toward the floor to deepen the hip crease.

  6. Initiate the actions of the arms again as you maintain the action of the legs.

  7. Bend your right knee, place your foot back onto the floor, and lower your arms.

  8. Rest and then practice the left side.

Seated “L” Handstand

woman preparing for handstand practicing yoga boat pose

The Seated “L” Handstand is similar to Navasana (Boat Pose). The additives are that your heels can be on the wall or on a chair and you will use the block as you did in the prior variation.

  1. Sit on the floor near the wall (less than one leg’s length away from the wall) or chair.

  2. Place your heels on the wall or chair and keep your feet actively flexed. You are in Navasana.

  3. Lift your chest up and then take the block between your palms and lift the block up overhead. Spread your shoulder blades as you upwardly rotate them.

  4. Activate your three points of contact; press into your heels and straighten your legs, press your sit bones down to lift your spine and reach your block up high into the air.

  5. To come out, lower the block, take your feet off the wall or chair and practice the other side.

Elevating Your Feet to “L” Handstand

woman preparing for handstand with downward dog with heels elevated

There is no need to rush this process. Adho Mukha Svanasana (Downward Facing Dog Pose) is the ground level of “L” Handstand. It’s a mild inversion that allows you to practice all of the elements that we discussed, including arm positioning, deepening the fold at the hips and pressing through the legs. Once comfortable in Downward Facing Dog Pose, you can start elevating the feet, shifting weight from the feet to the hands. There is a variety of ways to elevate your feet until you eventually come into the “L” Handstand. The following are propped suggestions of working up to this pose.

  1. Place two blocks on their lowest level, horizontally against the wall an, inch wider than hipbone-distance apart. From Bharmanasana (Tabletop Pose), place your feet on the blocks, and then come into Downward Facing Dog Pose.

  2. Now stack two blocks in the same fashion and come into Downward Facing Dog Pose. Notice how much more weight is in your hands now than with your regular woman preparing for handstand with downward dog with heels elevated on two blocksDownward Facing Dog Pose.

  3. Now try using a chair. Set a chair up against the wall with the seat facing away from the wall. You may want to place a blanket between the back of the chair and the wall so that the chair remains in place.

  4. Stand in front of the chair and face away from it. Fold forward, firmly press your hands into the floor and place your feet on the chair seat (there’s not a super elegant way to really get here).

  5. Press your feet down into the chair as you elevate your hips. You can walk your hands back so that they align under your shoulders.

  6. Some people’s shoulder joint construction will not allow their hands to align directly under their shoulders. woman preparing for handstand with L-handstand feet on a chairFor these people, placing their hands directly under their shoulders may make them feel as if they’re going to fall forward. If this is the case, let your hands continue to ground a bit forward of your shoulders.

  7. Work to stack your hips above your shoulders. This is essentially “L” Handstand but with the feet lower than the hips.

  8.  Now, set up at the wall in Tabletop Pose with your feet facing the wall. Firm your hands against the floor.

  9. woman practicing half handstand at the wall L-position

    Tuck your toes under and lift your knees. Place one foot onto the wall and then the other. Push straight down into the floor as your hips lift up toward the ceiling. (You are already in this position, but this directive activates the shoulders and the hips, working together to lengthen the spine and resist gravity.)

  10. Take a breath or two here and work up to building more stamina in the pose over time. Lower one foot down, then the other, and rest in a seated position or Balasana (Child’s Pose).

“L” Handstand should be taught under the guidance of an experienced teacher. If you find that you have trouble accessing this pose these can be a rough framework of ways to build strength and stamina without necessarily going upside down, as well as to increase inverted proprioception and your comfort level with being upside down.

 

Also from Allison Schleck and YogaUOnline, more yoga practice tips - Deepen Your Backbending: Three Ways to Use a Strap in Ustrasana.

Allison Schleck, E-RYT 500, RPYT is a vinyasa based yoga teacher, fascinated by the intricate relationship between the mind and body. She offers a range of alignment-focused classes touching on anatomy, philosophy, and creative propping with a mindful approach.  In addition to teaching group classes and managing the Yoga Culture studio in Danbury, CT, she also teaches at Open Door Family Medical Center in Westchester, NY empowering mother's to be with prenatal yoga classes and childbirth education. You can find her @allisonschleck on Instagram and www.allisonrayjeraci.com.

 

Editor's Picks