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How to Practice Adho Mukha Vrksasana?

Updated: Oct 24, 2023

Adho Mukha Vrksasana is translated to handstand. But what is the literal translation of the Sanskrit words? Let’s look into it word by word;

  • Adho derives from the word “adhas” meaning down

  • Mukha means face

  • Vrksa means tree

  • Asana means pose

So the literal translation would be downward-facing tree pose. Same as the tree pose on the feet, the aims of handstand are to find balance, which is indeed more challenging on the hands than on the feet. Through Adho Mukha Vrksasana the partitioners learn to focus on the moment - it is in the end an active form of meditation.

what is Adho Mukha Vrksasana

Preparatory Poses for Adho Mukha Vrksasana

There are many ways to prepare for Handstand. However, Adho Mukha Vrksasana is more mental than physical. The main part of the body involved in Handstand are the shoulders. Therefore shoulder shrugs are a good exercise in order to create muscle memories for later on.

Using Props and Wall Support for Beginners

No matter whether beginner or advanced practitioner, the wall is a good friend of any handbalancer to come back to again and again. One of the first exercises at the wall is the L-shape against the wall. I must warn you, this exercise is harder than it looks and probably the hardest of all exercises. You learn to align the wrist, shoulders and hip. If you do it the first time and your body feels compressed - congratulations, you are doing it right.

The next exercise which can create a lot of frustration in the beginning, will help you to set the foundation for later on. By learning how to do wall walks, your shoulder will get activated. The shoulders are very grateful and thankfully adapt to these new kinds of exercises very fast.

handstand practice

Common Mistakes and How to Avoid Them

1. Not respecting the right distance of the hands

→ Make sure to place your hands underneath your shoulders. So your wrists, elbows and shoulders are in one line.

2. Bending the elbows

→ Lock the inside of your elbows to the front, in order to not bend your elbows.

3. Using muscles too much and tensening up the body

→ Try to take tension out of your body. The only part which is constantly active are the shoulders. Everything else, fingers, forearms, belly, hips and legs are completely relaxed.

Balancing and Alignment Cues for a Perfect Adho Mukha Vrksasana

First of all you need to know where to place your hands. You want to have your wrist, elbows and shoulders in one line. Make sure to not bend your elbows while you are in a handstand. Once in a handstand you want to relax your entire body except for your shoulders which are projecting towards the ears and the feet which are pointed. Your fingers are reacting to the movements, in order to help you stay in balance.

Adho Mukha Vrksasana practice

Benefits of Regular Adho Mukha Vrksasana Practice

  1. Boosts energy level: Due to the upside down position in a handstand, the blood flows in your head and coming out of the handstand you almost always have an energy boost.

  2. Mental challenge - rewarding: Mastering a handstand is on many levels more challenging mentally than physically. To preserve the state you created will take many mental journeys of ups and downs. It is about finding the balance, the perfect sweet spot. Sometimes something like a deep breath or a thought of self doubt can bring you out of balance, as well as too much confidence.

  3. Upper body strength: Since you are spending quite some time on your hands rather than your feet, your upper body strength is building up kind of a nice side effect - no gym subscription needed.

  4. Are fun and make happy: Last but no least, handstands are fun. It is a great way to get to know more about yourself and your body. It brings you back into playful times alike the ones you had in your childhood, where the outcome was second nature and your did thins merely for the sake of pleasure.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is Adho Mukha Vrksasana?

It is also known as the handstand or hand balancing.

Can Adho Mukha Vrksasana be modified for different skill levels?

How often should one practise Adho Mukha Vrksasana?


Do you need help with your Adho Mukha Vrksasana practice?

I am Manola, experienced Adho Mukha Vrksasana instructor. Let me guide you to improve your practice!

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