I’m on an inversion kick (haha – get it?) lately. We’ve already established that inversions are my favorite group of yoga poses and that I wish that more people thought that inversions were accessible to them. If you are a reader of this blog, you’ve probably heard me throw around the term L-shaped handstand often enough. So I thought that L-shaped handstand deserved its own post.
L-shaped handstand is the first inversion I learned. In fact, I tried it at the end of my very first yoga class. I remember some parts of that first class (a free intro at Jivamukti Yoga School more than 11 years ago) vividly. I remember gasping for breath and thinking that this yoga stuff was way harder than I thought it would be. I remember how packed the room was. And I remember the teacher announcing that we were all going to try something together, as a community, that might be a little scary. I was definitely anxious as she told us to find a spot on the wall. There were so many of us that we must have resembled sardines as we squeezed into the available wall space. As the teacher talked us through L-shaped handstand, there were many scoffs, snorts and other sounds of disbelief (sounds I hear in my classes now, which is really beautiful when I think about it.) But everyone tried it, including me. I’m pretty sure that I didn’t actually make it up during that first class, probably because I really didn’t want to crash into the people on either side of me. But the bug had clearly been planted and I raced back to my dorm room to practice it until I got it. I don’t actually remember when I successfully executed the pose, but I do remember that once I did get it, I practiced it as often as I could.
Enough rambling! On to the tutorial.
I think it’s helpful to think of L-shaped handstand as the third pose in group comprised of wall dog, downward facing dog and L-shaped handstand. If you think about it, especially if you are a visually oriented learner, you’ll see that the body position in each of these poses is essentially the same. The difference is where you are bearing weight and your position relative to the wall. Behold:
I probably don’t have a perfect right angle in each picture, but hopefully you get the idea. In wall dog, I’m weight bearing in my feet with my hands at the wall. I downward dog I don’t use the wall at all and I bear weight in my hands and feet. In L-shaped handstand, I bear weight in my hands and my feet are on the wall. Practicing wall dog and downward dog is a great way to prepare yourself to practice L-shaped handstand.
When we shot the video for hallway handstand, I also asked Melinda to photograph it with the doohickey on her camera that shoots automatically every second or so (maybe faster), which worked out really well for this tutorial because I can show you each of the steps.
Step 1: Come into a short downward dog. If you aren’t sure where you should be, come to hands and knees (table) with your heels at the wall. When you move to your downward dog from there, your heels should be resting on the baseboard.
Step 2: Place one foot (you’ll likely favor one leg over the other) onto the wall behind you.
Step 3: Pick your other foot up off the floor and place it on the wall. This is where it gets a little scary – you have to shift your torso forward so your shoulders come over your wrists and transfer a lot of your weight to your hands. But if you manage this step, the rest is easy!
Step 4: Straighten your legs by pushing your feet into the wall. This will shift your torso forward a bit more. Tada! L-shaped handstand. Make sure your feet aren’t too far up the wall. You want your body to be in a downward dog shape (about a 90 degree angle) not a straight line. Your ears should be in line with your biceps.
Step 5: BONUS ROUND! If you are comfortable here in L-shaped handstand, you can try picking one foot up and bringing your leg vertical to practice the regular handstand shape. Make sure you don’t overshoot vertical though and make this a backbend (you know, unless you are into that sort of thing…)
As always with inverting, it’s helpful to have someone spot you in case you get unsteady and I highly suggest seeking out a qualified teacher to work with you on this if you are unsure of your strength. Have fun!