Ask me to do a headstand or nearly any other yoga arm balance, and I can do it, but I cannot for the life of me stick a handstand without the help of a wall or a spotter.

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Image from Yoga Journal

When going against a wall, I use the technique described by Yoga Journal where you kick up from a downward facing dog-like position. I can do it, but I rely on the wall to stop my feet. If I try to do it free-standing, my legs go right over!

Are there any alignment tricks, learning sequences, or strengthening/flexibility exercises I can do to help me stick a handstand away from the wall?

  • The reason you fall over is because downdog is a position where your shoulders are behind your hands. When you kick up, you probably lean further back, and your shoulders will gain so much momentum that you will not have the power to stop them (unless you already know this stuff). Rather than DD, start from a position where your shoulders are directly over your hands, your arms are perpendicular to the floor, and when you kick up, focus on keeping your shoulders in place. This will minimize the swing of your body and will make it easier for you to learn.
    – BKE
    Jan 7, 2014 at 13:06

6 Answers 6


Work on strengthening your core muscles and back. Arm strength won't help you much if your core starts tipping over. You need to push yourself up with you core and lower back and hold it there.

One way to work on balance is to spread your weight by separating your legs and feet outwards (like a center split) when you hold your lower body up. It's a similar idea in juggling when you start balancing objects on your hand or chin. Having more weight on top actually makes balancing easier. The distribution of weight will aid in learning what to do with your muscles specifically figuring out which way to move to re-align the center of mass. As you improve you can close the gap, your movements to compensate will become more and more subtle, and the weight will become more concentrated in one area.

  • 4
    Wow, I'm not going to lie, when I read the thing about doing a headstand with wider legs I was skeptical, but I tried it out and it makes a huge difference! I can actually stick it without my feet hitting the wall like that (not for long, but I'll keep practicing). Thanks for the tip!
    – Barbie
    Mar 24, 2011 at 19:23
  • 6
    This answer is in dire need of an image to proof it works!
    – Ivo Flipse
    Mar 24, 2011 at 20:02
  • Actually, some breakdancers will move their legs out in various techniques. It helps with the balance, but it may be more for show since it's a very visual thing. Still though, it requires core strength to hold their bodies like that.
    – Matt Chan
    Mar 24, 2011 at 20:46
  • 1
    And some serious strength/balance that takes years to develop. BBoys put a lot of practice into what they do even to accomplish simple moves with style. Mar 26, 2011 at 19:28
  • I'd also add, to work on spreading your fingers and using them to control your balance. To see what I mean. Stand up with your legs together and lean forward. You'll find that you use your toes to stay upright. When you're in a handstand you do the same but with your fingers. It takes a while to build up this strength. If you lean back you'll find that you use your heels. In a hand stand you use your palms in the same manner. The reason BBoys can kick their legs around like @Matt said is, you don't use your legs to balance in a handstand, you use your hands. Mar 26, 2011 at 20:04

Assistance by a partner can be useful and can speed up the learning process. A partner can hold your legs and watch your form, even if she is not proficient in the handstand.

handstand assist

This is only after you can hold the handstand by the wall. Also, be careful not to kick your partner accidentally.

One really good assistance exercise was someone holding your legs, then, putting one closed fist between your knees. You then have to squeeze your knees and use only the fist between your knees to keep yourself in balance (the other hand is then released and your only help will be the fist between your knees).

This is good because squeezing the knees will activate the core right away. Also, the fist will be somewhat unstable, which is useful for learning the balancing skill. So this is kind of halfway between using a spotter and the free standing hs, and can make the transition to free standing easier.


"When you feel most of your weight on your hands, attempt to keep the force of your weight around the base of your fingers. This allows you to push forward or backwards with your hands, to compensate for when you kick too hard or not enough. You might need to try a few times before you get to balance. Soon you will get it almost every time. Just keep all the weight on your hands." - WikiHow

You'll need a good sense of balance and decent strength in your forearms. Just keep trying and practicing and you'll eventually get it down.

  • Hello, it becomes easier when one tries to balance the legs too, but as stated the weight must be on hands :)
    – ABcDexter
    Jun 3, 2016 at 17:19

I agree about the core strength. Also, I find it helpful to scissor kick up. When I try to kick both legs up at the same time there is often too much momentum for me to control.


There are muscles right down by your wrist, very low forearm, that are handy for this. They are very under utilized. Hold yourself from going over, even if you do. They will make themselves known very quickly Forearm curls miss these almost completely. You can dramatically improve your wrist strength by performing wrist push-ups. Start at the top of a push-up with knees on the floor. Now extend your wrists so the palms of your hands leave the ground and you are only touching with your fingers. You can also push all the way on to fingertips. This is assuming all other core strength is in place, which it sort of sounds like it is. I was good for a 20 second hand stand once, probably only 5 or 10 seconds right now myself. Those muscles were my sticking point.


If you're kicking high enough up that your feet are going beyond your head, you've at least conquered the fear that results in most people not getting their feet high enough. As mentioned in some of the prior answers, a wider spread of the legs does help with balance. Also, the wrists and forearms are very important for fine adjustment of balance (pressing more towards your fingers or the heel of your hand to adjust forwards and back). Lastly, it's worth trying different ways of entering into the handstand. The three primary ways to enter a handstand as a beginner are as follows:

  • Split-leg: Probably the most common way people learn. One leg acts as the support while the other swings up to bring you into the handstand with the supporting leg then joining it. This has the advantage of combining the swinging strength of the leg to pull you up with the support of one leg being down initially. Drawbacks include that it involves a fair amount of forward momentum and some degree of torso twist as you come up, not to mention coordinating the two legs to find equilibrium.
  • Both legs together: This requires more core-strength. It's basically the same as the split-leg handstand, but you kick both legs up at the same time. This eliminates the torso torque, and allows you to start with your legs parallel, which can aid in not falling sideways, but in my opinion tends to be more difficult to do, particularly getting enough momentum to get both of your legs above your head.
  • Squat to hand-stand: The third way, and the way that I initially found easiest, is to start in a squatting position, put one's hands on the ground in front of you, kick your feet up above your head while staying in the squat, then to push them toward the sky. This lets your center of gravity stay close to the ground right up until the end, and requires less effort to get your feet above your head, but also requires more precision of timing as to when to kick up, and the upward motion unbalances some people. Still, it's a very viable technique, and that upward motion makes it very clear whether you're aligned (as otherwise you will launch yourself out of the handstand).

After that, it's basically practice and listening to your body as to where you are on or off balance.

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