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It's a good idea to practice on a soft surface at first.
Handstand walking is an advanced exercise that can take years to perform with confidence and good, safe technique. If you're a beginner, you'll likely need to put in lots of time and effort to develop strength in your wrists, shoulders and core as well as the ability to balance independently. Handstand walking is a great goal, though, and there are plenty of exercises you can do to build strength and work up to it gradually.
Building Up: Downward Dog
The downward dog is a simple pose that is accessible to most people, even those who are still working on flexibility and strength. Begin on all fours, with hands below your shoulders and knees below your hips. Flex your feet and tuck your toes into the ground, then press through your arms to lift your hips up and back until your body forms a triangle or mountain shape, with your hips at the highest point. While in the pose, think of a few key actions:
- Spread your fingers wide and press the whole of each palm and all 10 fingers into the ground.
- Open your shoulders by thinking of moving your shoulder blades down your back and together.
- Open your chest by thinking of moving it toward your thighs.
The downward dog can help you develop the wrist strength necessary for more difficult handstand progressions so you become accustomed to opening your shoulders in a handstand.
Using the Wall
Once your downward dog is solid and your wrists and shoulders feel strong in the position, you can try a beginner handstand drill using a wall, chair or couch. The position you'll be in is essentially a downward dog but with feet elevated, which will help your wrists and shoulders adjust to supporting more weight and help you build up to a full handstand. To do it:
- Kneel about 3 or 4 feet from your wall, chair or couch, facing away from it.
- Place your hands in front of your knees, with fingers spread wide.
- Press through your hands to lift your hips high, stepping one foot at a time back onto the wall behind you.
- Slowly step up the wall until your hips are stacked over your shoulders and your shoulders are stacked over your hands.
Step back onto the floor as soon as you get tired, and gradually build up to holding the position for longer stretches. While in the pose, think of pressing up through your hands and shoulders to make your upper body as long as possible.
After you're comfortable with a beginner, feet-up handstand, you can begin to open your hip angle little by little and take first steps in handstand walking. To progress, follow these steps:
- Start with your hands closer to the wall, so you can walk your feet further up the wall. Hold the pose. Work on lifting one hand at a time, just for a second at first, then for long enough to come up and touch your shoulder before reaching back down.
- Work on wall walk-downs and walk-ups. Start with hands about 3 feet from the wall and feet up on the wall. Walk the hands toward the wall at the same time you walk the feet up the wall, until your hands are only about 1 foot from the wall. Then, slowly and with control, walk back to your starting position.
- Work on lateral walking. Walk your hands to about 2 feet from the wall. Then, while keeping a strong handstand position, walk your hands and feet sideways along the wall. Start with just a couple of steps. Slowly walk back.
Work at opening your chest and shoulders in each of these progressions by keeping your head between your arms.
Once you can do lateral wall walks with ease, you'll be much closer to independent handstand walking. Next steps include:
- Practicing a freestanding handstand on a thick mat or with a spotter, away from the wall, until you can bail out of it safely.
- Practicing taking small steps forward in your handstand with the help of a spotter.
Remember: Practice often, but go slowly. Handstand walking is an amazing exercise, but it takes most people months or years to build up enough strength and balance to do it safely. Have fun!