Reviewed By: Pramod Kerkar, MD, FFARCSI

Adho Mukha Vrksasana gets its name from Sanskrit where "Adho" means "Downward", "Mukha" means "Face", "Vrksa" means "Tree" and "Asana" means "Pose" or "Posture".

Adho Mukha Vrksasana is also called Yoga Handstand because in the final pose the entire body is supported on the hands. Adho Mukha Vrksasana or The Handstand is a very challenging pose which requires strength and stability in the arms and hands for them to support the entire body.

In Vrksasana or The Tree pose, you are standing with your hand raised towards the sky. And in Adho Mukha Vrksasana or The Tilted tree pose, your hands are supporting the entire body weight.

When done by a beginner Adho Mukha Vrksasana or The Handstand has to be done very carefully as balancing yourself on your hand is not very easy as it may seem.

Adho Mukha Vrksasana or The Handstand opens up the shoulders arms, wrists, legs, lungs and the spine and can be practiced by both adults and children. Practicing Adho Mukha Vrksasana or The Handstand enables you to draw inward and cut out the clutter of the outside world. Like other asanas, it is considered best when Adho Mukha Vrksasana or The Handstand is practiced early in the morning or Brahma Muhurta. However, if because of some reason, you are not able to practice it in the morning, you can practice Adho Mukha Vrksasana or The Handstand in the evening as well. Mornings are preferred as the food is digested and your body has the energy to perform the asanas. But make sure that when you are practicing Adho Mukha Vrksasana or The Handstand in the evening, you should have your food five to six hours before you practice as your food takes this much time to digest.

Technique Of Practicing Adho Mukha Vrksasana Or The Handstand

Technique Of Practicing Adho Mukha Vrksasana Or The Handstand

  • To practice Adho Mukha Vrksasana or The Handstand, get on to floor or on the yoga mat.
  • Get into Adho Mukha Svanasana or the Downward Facing Dog Pose.
  • For beginners who are practicing with the support of a wall, make sure your hands are placed about six inches away from the wall. Keep your palms open and flat on the mat or floor with the fingers spread out wide.
  • While exhaling normally, start bending your knees slowly and lift your legs up in such a way that you are balancing your body on the toes. Walk towards your hands while making sure that your shoulders are placed exactly over your wrists.
  • To practice Adho Mukha Vrksasana or The Handstand, bend the knee of any one leg and lift the foot of the other leg from the floor.
  • You can straighten the leg once you are comfortable in this position.
  • Then, as the leg takes the support of the wall, gently lift up the other leg. While you do this, you must make sure your head is between your upper arms.
  • Hold the final Adho Mukha Vrksasana or The Handstand for a few breaths or until you are comfortable in the pose.
  • When you get comfortable in the final pose with the support of the wall, try to take your feet off the wall and engage your legs while practicing Adho Mukha Vrksasana or The Handstand.
  • Fixing your gaze on a point on the floor or straight on an any point will also help in balancing the body on the ground.
  • Try to hold Adho Mukha Vrksasana or The Handstand for a few breaths or for as long as you feel comfortable.
  • Keep breathing deeply .Maintain a normal breath with a deep inhale and exhale.
  • To release Adho Mukha Vrksasana or The Handstand, bring your legs down slowly and carefully one at a time.
  • Make sure that you do not bring your legs on the ground abruptly. Be very careful while releasing the asana.
  • Relax in Shavasana and catch your breath.
  • Practice three to four rounds of Adho Mukha Vrksasana or The Handstand.

Breathing Pattern To Be Followed While Practicing Adho Mukha Vrksasana Or The Handstand

  • Inhale deeply while getting into Adho Mukha Svanasana or the Downward Facing Dog Pose.
  • Exhale normally while bending your knees and lifting your legs.
  • Inhale while straightening the legs.
  • Maintain a constant and normal breath in the final Adho Mukha Vrksasana or The Handstand Pose.
  • Exhale deeply after releasing the pose.

Preparatory Poses To Master Adho Mukha Vrksasana Or The Handstand

Adho Mukha Svanasana or Downward Facing Dog. Adho Mukha Svanasana or Downward Facing Dog clears stiffness in your shoulders, lengthens and straightens your legs, helps to create arches in your feet and strengthen your ankles.

Steps to do Adho Mukha Svanasana or Downward Facing Dog

  • To practice Adho Mukha Svanasana stand on Floor or on the yoga mat.
  • Kneel on the yoga mat or floor in such a way that the whole body is supported with hands and knees on the floor. Make sure your knees are in straight line with the hips in this position.
  • Make your palms spread on the yoga mat make sure that the maximum force is exerted with the index finger on the floor. Your forefingers should turn a little parallel.
  • While exhaling, lift your knees far from the floor in such a way that the knees come in line with the thighs and they are not bent.
  • In the beginning, if you face any difficulty in keeping the knees straight, you can keep them a little bent and heels lifted from the floor.
  • Try to raise you hip bones inside and try to draw your legs into the crotch.
  • In this position, make the highest point of the thighs push back and let your heels touch the floor.
  • Get back on your knees to release the asana and move your head to look upwards

Uttanasana or Standing Forward Fold Pose. Uttarasana is one of the most therapeutic poses for Digestion. It compresses the abdominal area and stimulates the blood supply to the digestive organs thereby promoting digestion. Uttarasana helps the upper half of the body to completely relax and calms the nerves as well.

Steps to do Uttanasana or Standing Forward Fold Pose:

  • Stand straight on the yoga mat.
  • Bend forward and let your hands touch the floor and let the forehead touch your knees.
  • If you are not able to touch the floor you can wrap your hands around the ankle or you can reach down as far as your body permits without overstretching yourself.
  • Virasana or the Hero Pose. Virasana or The Hero pose stretches the muscles and strengthens the core muscles to perform Adho Mukha Vrksasana or The Handstand.

Steps to do Virasana or the Hero Pose

  • While sitting in Vajrasana, bring your knees closer together and your feet slightly wider than the width of your hips.
  • Press the tops or the front of the feet firmly into the mat.
  • While practicing Virasana, lower your hips back slowly so that you are eventually sitting on the mat or on the ground between your heels.
  • Make sure you do not feel any shooting pain or any sensation in your body while practicing Virasana or The Hero Pose.
  • Also, make sure that the toes are pointing backward and ankles are drawn inwards to protect the knees.
  • While practicing Virasana or The Hero Pose pull in your navel. Extend your tailbone from the crown of your head to the floor.
  • Stay in this pose for as long as you feel comfortable.

Steps to do Tadasana or the Mountain Pose

Tadasana or the Mountain Pose is a very good stretching and relaxing exercise for the body. It is a balancing asana and stretches the spine, legs, arms, abdominal muscles and chest. It prepares the body to practice Adho Mukha Vrksasana or The Handstand.

  • To practice Tadasana in standing position, stand straight and keep your legs slightly apart from each other.
  • Raise your hands above your head and look straight while focusing on one point in front of you.
  • Interlock the fingers of both the hands and turn them upwards in such a way that the palms are towards the ceiling/sky.
  • Take a deep breath or while inhaling, stretch your arms, chest and shoulders upwards.
  • While practicing Tadasana, the gaze can be adjusted to look a little above while stretching.
  • Raise your heels in such a way that all the weight of your body is on the toes.
  • Remain in this position for 20-30 seconds.
  • Retain your breath while stretching.
  • While exhaling, come down to your original position.
  • This completes one round of Standing Tadasana.
  • You can practice Tadasana for 8-10 rounds.

Benefits Of Practicing Adho Mukha Vrksasana Or The Handstand

  • Adho Mukha Vrksasana or The Handstand Pose stretches and strengthens the wrists, arms, and shoulders.
  • While practicing Adho Mukha Vrksasana or The Handstand Pose, the abdomen is stretched and the digestive organs are stimulated thereby relieving you of the digestion related disorders like bad digestion, acid reflux, relieve the wind captured in the stomach.
  • Adho Mukha Vrksasana or The Handstand Pose helps in balancing the mind, increases the power of concentration, and gives mental relaxation. The thinking process becomes very clear and precise with regular practice of Adho Mukha Vrksasana or The Handstand Pose.
  • It quiets your mind and prepares you for meditation
  • Adho Mukha Vrksasana or The Handstand Pose refreshes and rejuvenates you and also relieves you of stress and mild depression.
  • Adho Mukha Vrksasana or The Handstand Pose improves your posture and is good for those suffering from cervical disorders.
  • Practicing this asana improves your sense of balance.
  • Blood circulation is enhanced all over the body with regular practice of Adho Mukha Vrksasana or The Handstand Pose.
  • This asana helps relieve stress and mild depression.
  • Adho Mukha Vrksasana or The Handstand Pose makes your body flexible and tones the core muscle of the body.
  • Adho Mukha Vrksasana or The Handstand Pose helps in increasing the lung capacity when practiced with proper breathing techniques and helps in getting rid of respiratory ailments like Asthma etc.
  • The focus points of Adho Mukha Vrksasana or The Handstand Pose are the pituitary, brain, shoulders, arms, wrists, legs, lungs and the spine. This asana helps in improving the functioning of all the above mentioned areas.

Precautions And Contraindications While Practicing Adho Mukha Vrksasana Or The Handstand

  • Pregnant females should not practice Adho Mukha Vrksasana or The Handstand Pose as it exerts a lot of pressure on the abdomen.
  • Females who are menstruating should also not practice Adho Mukha Vrksasana or The Handstand Pose.
  • It is advised to avoid practicing Adho Mukha Vrksasana or The Handstand Pose if you have herniated discs.
  • If you have issues in your lower back, you should avoid practicing Adho Mukha Vrksasana or The Handstand Pose.
  • Adho Mukha Vrksasana or The Handstand Pose should not be practiced by people who have any shoulder injuries or any shoulder pain.
  • People who have pain in their arms or any other problem related to arms should also not practice Adho Mukha Vrksasana or The Handstand Pose.
  • People who have any issues or pain in their hips or have had any Hip surgeries in the recent past should also not practice Adho Mukha Vrksasana or The Handstand Pose.
  • If you have any doubts about your condition, consult a physician before practicing Adho Mukha Vrksasana or The Handstand Pose and always practice asana under the supervision of a trained yoga expert.
  • Do not over exert yourself while practicing Adho Mukha Vrksasana or The Handstand Pose. Do not push yourself beyond the limits. Go only as far as your body allows.
  • People suffering from chronic spinal problems should not practice Adho Mukha Vrksasana or The Handstand Pose.
  • It is most beneficial when you stay aware of the stretches in the muscles while holding the pose. So, always remain aware while you are practicing Adho Mukha Vrksasana or The Handstand Pose.
  • People with chronic heart conditions should not practice Adho Mukha Vrksasana or The Handstand Pose.
  • Adho Mukha Vrksasana or The Handstand Pose should not be practiced by people with high blood pressure.

Tips While Practicing Adho Mukha Vrksasana Or The Handstand

  • If you feel any sharp shooting pain while practicing Adho Mukha Vrksasana or The Handstand Pose, release the pose immediately and lie in Shavasana.
  • When in Adho Mukha Vrksasana or The Handstand Pose, if you feel pain in the knees, move your arms slightly forward from the sides to ease the pain.
  • You must prepare your body to practice Adho Mukha Vrksasana or The Handstand Pose by doing the preparatory stretches and steps.
  • You should also know your body limits and how much pain and stretch your body can bear if the stretch and pain are too much to bear, come out of the pose immediately and rest in any relaxation poses like Shavasana.
  • Adho Mukha Vrksasana or The Handstand Pose is an advanced pose and should be practiced with constant efforts and under the guidance of a trained Yoga Expert.
  • For beginners who find it difficult to reverse their head initially can use a support below your head like a yoga block or a folded blanket. You can get appropriate height of the support below your head by adjusting and trying with different supports below the head while practicing Adho Mukha Vrksasana or The Handstand Pose.
  • If you are not able to keep your arms straight while practicing Adho Mukha Vrksasana or The Handstand Pose can use a strap just above the elbows. Make sure that the strap is stretched when you get in to the pose. This strap will help you to straighten the arms while getting into the pose.
  • Adho Mukha Vrksasana or The Handstand Pose in itself is an advanced pose. If you want to deepen the pose, you should raise your head to look downwards on the floor. And make sure that you do not hurt your back while practicing this. People with cervical should not try to practice this.
  • This full arm-balancing pose is very helpful in opening up the shoulders and developing wrist and arm strength.
Pramod Kerkar

Written, Edited or Reviewed By:

, MD,FFARCSI

Pain Assist Inc.

Last Modified On: December 30, 2017

This article does not provide medical advice. See disclaimer

Sign Up for Our Newsletter

We'll help you live each day to the healthiest