When you are able to perform handstand by kicking, you can then advance to the next level of challenge – handstand by lifting your legs. To do this, your arms, shoulder, spine and ribcage must be in alignment to support the weight of the pelvis, along with proper muscle control, balance, focus and breathing.
Activate your arms
From standing forward bend (Pada Hasthasana), place your hands on the floor in front of your feet shoulder width apart. Rock forward and shift your weight to the hands and the front of the feet. Press your hands down onto the floor as you move, to let the arms bear the weight of the ribcage. Then slowly rock back until your weight is entirely on your feet, relax your arms at this point, and let your legs take the weight.
Build the strength
Lengthening the neck will open and firm your ribcage, building a strong base for the arms. This in turn straightens the spine, enabling the lifting of pelvis by holding firmly with the arms. Expanding and firming the ribcage will give you a strong foundation for lifting into handstand.
Straighten the thoracic spine
Engage the pelvic floor After lengthening your neck, try to extend your thoracic spine to activate the erectors. Continue to press both shoulder blades against the back and suck in the thoracic spine into the ribcage. This action will support the weight of the pelvis.
Engage the abdominal (Uddyana Bandha)
Use the abdominal muscles to lock the ribcage to the pelvis when lifting into handstand. You do not need very strong abdominal muscles, but you need to engage them enough to bring the ribcage and pelvis together as one unit, which allows easier control and balance on your arms and hands.
Engage the pelvic floor (Mula Bandha)
Keep pulling your tailbone back; at the same time use your pelvic floor muscles particularly the pupococcygeus (which lies between the tailbone and pubic bone) to pull your tailbone forward. Continue these two actions as you rock onto your hands. Move your legs away from the hip joints, in other words, move your thigh bones out of the hip sockets, and work on lifting your legs.
Press your hands down to lift
Once you are comfortable shifting your weight onto your hands, next is to shift weight onto your arms with your hands further back. As you press your hands onto the floor, try positioning your spine to push your pelvis upward simultaneously. The straighter your spine, the easier you lift your pelvis. Keep hugging your hips towards the midline. Inhale and lift your hips by strongly pressing your hands onto the mat. Press your hands and shift your weight forward as if you are about to fall, but using your fingers to keep the centre at foundation. You may need to bend your knees to get your legs off the floor. Knees bending or not, you should focus on smoothly placing your weight on your hands, as opposed to jumping up. Finally, pull your hips forward and lift your legs up.
Feel a sense of falling
Once your feet are off the floor, continue to lift them up into full handstand. Shift your weight forward to get a sense of almost falling down, which will lift your feet up. Then shift your weight back to catch yourself before you actually fall on your back. Use your hands to feel the centre in order to stay balanced. Keep the centre above your palms, or slightly forward, over the base of your fingers.
Note – Shoulders will move forward:
One of the things you will discover is that, when lifting into handstand, your shoulders will have to move quite far forward in respect to your hands. You may have to spend a few sessions getting your shoulders used to this. If you practise rocking back and forth smoothly, you may find pleasure in doing it. Allow yourself to focus on feeling the action, and the lifting will come almost naturally, without thinking and without too much trying.
You can bend your knees:
You can bend your knees since doing the posture with straight legs is harder, especially for your shoulders. Going up with legs straight requires your shoulders to move even further forward, until the point where your legs come to horizontal. From there, your shoulders can gradually move back to above your hands.
Coordinate your breathing:
Focus on feeling the action and on incorporating the breathing into each movement. Inhale before rocking forward and while lifting up, to activate muscles that help stabilize your ribcage and provide a base for your arms.
Imagine the energy flow:
You can use your breathing to integrate all these actions by beginning inhale as you press onto your hands; imagine the breath traveling up your arms, torso and out through your legs. You may find this visualization helpful in lifting yourself into handstand with minimum effort.
Feel the centre:
Once you have found the centre, keep engaging the abdomen, extend the legs by reaching through the inner arch of your inner foot and look forward. From there, you can come down slowly with an exhale, while maintaining the same control you have when going up. With patience and dedication, you will be able to stand on your hands in no time.
A word of caution:
Do not attempt on your own unless you are confident in doing handstand without assistance. If you have wrist pain, wrap your wrists with athletic tape or place a folded yoga mat under the heels of your hands.