Part 2: So Why DON'T We Handstand?


1. Introduction

So Gabby and my book, The Handstanding Yogi is a book for those who…

  • Think they will never be able to do a handstand
  • Don’t know if they even want to do a handstand 
  • Know that they want to do a handstand but also know that they are in need of some serious guidance and/or fairy dust
  • Do yoga a little
  • Do yoga a lot

This is me, all of the above is me. The casually stated fact of ‘oh, I don’t really do handstands’ has been part of my yoga teaching spiel for a while now. There were even a few years when the idea that a particularly zealous student might suddenly stand up and yell ‘what do you mean you can’t do a handstand?’ was the subject of more than one Lycra-clad nightmare. 

It’s not that I don’t like them, I mean if ‘handstands’ were a person I wouldn't ignore them on the street — I would nod and smile, maybe wave like you would to a friend of a friend, I just wouldn’t invite them out for cocktails is all. And then I met handstand teacher Gabby and handstands actually did become a person and the ‘oh I don’t really do handstands’ became less of a fact and, well, more of an excuse.  

But at one point, I did do handstands, we all did. Before the iGeneration, we were all those kids in the playground throwing ourselves upside down with no fear of falling, no worries that our pinafores would fall over our heads or our hands would get muddy; no hang-ups of looking silly, of looking like we were trying too hard or fear of somebody posting a cringe-worthy photograph of us on Facebook. We’ve all been there once, and sometimes in those brief moments of tentative balance and even in those more familiar moments of crashing to the ground, we get there again. 

If you have picked up (or perhaps successfully Googled) The Handstanding Yogi: The Hows, Whys and WTFs of Being Upside Down it may be that you too are in the throes of learning to invert or perhaps you are just considering dipping your toes — cautiously poised at the edge of the handstanding pool. You are wise to be wary; the journey to a safe and stable handstand is paved with elation, frustration and all that lives in between (or so I hear). 

My own journey to answering Gabby’s seemingly simple question of ‘what is the big deal with handstands?’ would take me to Bali, via San Francisco, Sweden and Montréal. In understanding the power of turning your world on its head and onto your hands I would discover mind-bogglingly beautiful art made by the humblest of circus souls, rockstar yogis baring all to teach people a lesson in loving themselves, yoga warriors who combat addictions with the high of being upside down and teachers in whose hands handstands are fonts of strength for those who need it most. I would see that handstands have made careers, broken egos, crippled bodies, given people roots and even gifted some of the luckier ones wings. 

My journey would make me want to dust off my pinafore and join the ranks of the upside down, but for now: engage your glutes; pull your lower ribs in; take your arms up and shoulders to your ears. 

Are you sitting uncomfortably? Then we shall begin…

Extracted from The Handstanding Yogi: The Hows, Whys & WTFs - which is available now! £17.50 including postage and packaging to anywhere in the UK.

Ash Bond