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7 Simple Yoga Poses to Prep You for Handstands

author image Tamal Dodge
Born and raised in his family's yoga ashram in Hawaii, Tamal has been teaching and practicing yoga since childhood. Tamal is the founder of Yoga Salt in Los Angeles and has been featured in Time Magazine, Los Angeles Times, New York Times, Self Magazine, Yogi Times and numerous other publications. Tamal has several best selling yoga DVDs and tours the country teaching workshops and yoga teacher trainings.

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7 Simple Yoga Poses to Prep You for Handstands
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Inversions are not only fun and inspiring to look at, they can also be very good for your body. Handstands, headstands, shoulderstands and all other inversion variations can change your circulation, tone your body and create mental clarity. But not everyone can (or should) just kick straight up into a handstand. You want to make sure you have strong shoulders, a neutral pelvis and a stable core to practice inversions. The seven poses in this sequence all help you achieve those three things, so that handstands are more approachable and not as daunting. Ready to invert? Let’s get started!

1. Mountain Pose (Tadasana)
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Handstands are essentially standing upside down. If you can learn how to stand upright correctly, you can learn to do a handstand correctly. HOW TO DO IT: Start with your feet together, big toes touching and heels slightly apart. Spread your toes and distribute the weight evenly though the four corners of your feet. Lift up the kneecaps gently (without locking). Tilt your tailbone down as you engage your core. Lift your sternum upward without letting your lower ribs stick out. Drop the shoulders back along your spine. Drop your arms to the side of your body and rotate your shoulders until the palms face forward. Tuck your chin back and in. Stay here for five breaths.

Related: 10 Words to Know So You're Not So Confused in Yoga Class

2. Downward-Facing Dog (Adho Mukha Svanasana)
Photo Credit: Kelsey Tucker/


This is a go-to pose for a reason: It stretches out the entire back of your body while strengthening your shoulders. Plus, it’s technically an inversion (though a mild one), so it’s a great way to get used to the feeling. HOW TO DO IT: Start on all fours, with your weight in your hands and knees. Tuck your toes under and lift your knees as you push back into your heels. Your legs should be hip-width apart. Your arms should be at shoulder width, fingers spread wide. Pull the belly toward the spine and press your hips back to sink the heels down. Stay here for five breaths before slowly lowering down to all fours or Child’s pose.

Related: 11 Essential Yoga Poses Everyone Should Practice

3. Plank Pose
Photo Credit: Kelsey Tucker/


A strong core is essential for stable handstands, and there’s no better yoga pose to strengthen your core than plank. HOW TO DO IT: Start in a push-up position, with your wrists directly under your shoulders. Crawl your index fingers forward and plant down through the inner palm. Wrap the triceps back, pull the belly in, tilt the tailbone down and draw your sternum forward as you press your thigh bones into the hamstrings. Stay here for one minute. If you need to modify, you can set your knees down until you are strong enough for the full pose.

Related: 12 Powerful Yoga Poses for Every Athlete

4. Side Plank (Vashistasana)
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Once you’ve mastered the standard plank, challenge each side of your body individually. This pose strengthens the shoulder girdle and core muscles -- both of which are key to solid handstands. HOW TO DO IT: Start in plank with your feet together, and then kick both heels off to the right and send your left arm up. Flex your feet as if you where standing. Firm your thighs, lift the right hip away from the ground and tilt the tailbone toward the heels. Now, turn your left hand down and reach over your head. Stay here for five breaths then switch sides and repeat.

Related: 11 Plank Variations for Rock-Solid Abs

5. Boat Pose (Navasana)
Photo Credit: Kelsey Tucker/


Another great pose to challenge your abdominals and build core strength, Boat pose can be modified based on your fitness level. Start with your knees bent and straighten them as your core strength increases. HOW TO DO IT: From seated, bend your knees and place your feet together on the floor. Distribute your weight evenly between your sitting bones as you reach your arms forward. Draw in the belly and lift the chest. Plug the upper arm bones back into the shoulder girdle as you lift the feet the level of the hips. If you want more, try straightening the legs up to the sky. Stay here for five breaths.

Related: 10 Yoga Poses to Strengthen Your Core Muscles

6. Modified Handstand at the Wall (Ardha Adho Mukha Vrksasana)
Photo Credit: Kelsey Tucker/


You’ve done the groundwork (literally), now head to the wall and start to get a better feel for being upside down. HOW TO DO IT: Start in a short downward-facing dog with you heels touching the wall. Walk your feet up the wall to the level of your hips. Wrap your triceps back as you press your sternum toward the wall. Draw the belly to the spine and work your thigh bones up into the hamstrings. Stay here for five breaths. Then come down and hang out in a standing forward fold.

Related: How to Use Props to Up Your Yoga Game

7. Full Handstand at the Wall (Adho Mukha Vrksasana)
Photo Credit: Kelsey Tucker/


Here’s the final step before a full, unassisted handstand. You’ll want to keep at it until you can comfortably lift both feet off the wall and balance on your own. HOW TO DO IT: Start in a short downward-facing dog with your hands about six to 12 inches away from the wall. Lift your right leg and point through the ball of your right foot. Stare at a the space between your fingertips. Bend the left leg and start to hop until you’re vertical. Once you're up, wrap the triceps back, pull the belly to the spine and tilt the tailbone toward the heels. Stay here for five breaths, and then come down and hang out in a standing forward bend.

Related: 12 Amazing Paddleboard Yoga Poses (and How to Do Them)

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What Do YOU Think?
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Have you ever done a full handstand before? Do you want to? Which of these yoga poses are you going to incorporate into your routine? What yoga poses have you already done to help strengthen your shoulders and core? Share your thoughts, suggestions and stories in the comments section below!

Related: 9 MORE Fitness Bucket List Goals to Start Training For

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