Handstand Pose / Downward Facing Tree Pose

Handstand Pose or Downward Facing Tree Pose

Adho Mukha Vrksasana (Handstand Pose) forms part of the arm balance sequence which requires the engaging of the physical and mental body, along with the practice of uddhiyana bandha. While the practice of Handstand Pose requires a strong foundation of the arms and shoulders, the ability to lift the hips up, awareness of the breath, core muscle strength, yet, the most important part of this practice is getting out of the fear of falling. Since it is a balancing posture, it requires utmost focus and concentration on the gaze or drishti, and breath. The level of confidence is improved, and with practice students will have a better control over the chattering of the mind – thus promoting a sense of calmness.

Since the most challenging part of this advanced pose is the fear of falling, a beginner to Adho Mukha Vrksasana can overcome this by practicing the same with the support of the wall, or even this variation. But the most important thing to keep in mind despite the use of the wall, is the alignment of wrists and shoulders, which is very essential. These variations apart from helping build confidence will also help familiarize the body with stacking the hips on top of the shoulders and wrists in one straight line. Though the best way to begin with the practice of Adho Mukha Vrksasana (Handstand Pose) is the repeated practice of Jump Through Pose, that forms part of most Vinyasa Yoga.

Step-by-Step Instructions

Step 1
Start in Adho Mukha Savasana. Hands shoulder distance apart and fingers spread wide so you can get a good grip of the mat to improve balance. Your middle fingers are parallel and the inside of your elbows are facing each other.
Step 2
Walk your feet a little closer to your hands.
Step 3
Lift one leg up, normally it comes automatically which leg you prefer to raise. Keep the hips square to the ground, leg active and stretched out.
Step 4
Come up on your toes on the foot that remains on the floor. Bend the knee and make a light kick coming up onto your hands hugging the knee towards your belly toes pointing up. This step is a good way to activate the core and gain control of the pose to not fall over. It also ensures you keep a slight pike in your hips instead of creating a banana shape of your body.
Step 5
Start straightening the bent leg raising it up to the sky.
Step 6
Press down into your hands. Keep your core and glutes active to remain in balance. Thighs are internally rotated and your toes should be pointed, reaching high to the sky. Take as many deep breaths as you can hold the pose.
Step 7
Slowly lower one leg down, followed by the second. Come down into Child’s pose and rest for a few breaths.

Benefits and Contraindications

Benefits

Improves postural and body awareness

Improves circulation—lymphatic and venous Can help reduce swelling in your ankles and feet

Can boost energy and fight fatigue

Can help build confidence and empowerment

Improves posture and counteracts the effects of sitting and computer work

Mainly strengthens your core, back, chest, arms, shoulders, thighs, buttocks (gluteals)

Contraindications

Caution or avoid if you have osteoporosis, bulging or herniated discs, acute back pain or issues, or any condition that poses a higher risk if you fall Deepen the Pose

Avoid full inversions for heart conditions or unregulated high blood pressure

Avoid or caution when inverting for certain eye conditions (glaucoma, detached retina, diabetic retinopathy, recent cataract surgery, etc.) Ask your optomologist if you are unsure.

Be cautious if you have vertigo or dizziness

Extreme caution or avoid if you are pregnant, particularly if you don’t already have a strong inversion practice

Avoid putting your head below your heart if you have heart burn, indigestion, or acid reflux

Avoid if you have an ear infection

If you are menstruating, you may choose not to do full inversions for comfort and energetic reasons, but there is no known medical reason not to practice

Photo poses in different angles

Tips

Easiest way to come up is by kicking up, however the energy produced in that action is more challenging to control. You can practice this against the wall as it will stop you from falling over or alternatively with a spotter who catches your legs.

Second level would be to bring one knee towards the chest as outlined above.

The third and more advanced level is to use the core and leg strength to lift the legs up without jumping at all. Either by keeping your legs together straight or taking them out wide coming up from Prasarita Padottanasana.

Modifications & Variations
  • One Handed Tree Pose
  • Straddle Split Pose In Handstand Wall
  • One Handed Handstand At Wall
  • Five Pointed Star Pose Inverted Aerial
  • Half Handstand Pose Standing Forward Fold Pose Partner
Top Preparatory Poses
  • Standing Split Pose
  • Bunny Hops Pose Handstand Preparation
  • Half Handstand At Wall
Top Follow-Up Poses
  • Child Pose
  • Feathered Peacock pose
  • Handstand At Wall

Iana Varshavska
Iana Varshavska
Website administrator

In love with yoga and everything that goes along with it. Iana has been actively practicing yoga for 5 years. In addition to practice, she studies various aspects of yoga philosophy, yoga anatomy, biomechanics, and holodynamics.