Strength Training for Yogis: Handstands for Strength and Balance

Being upside down calms the nervous system, stimulates circulation throughout our body, and makes us head-to-toe stronger. It’s worth it.

Learning to stand on your hands takes dedication, courage, and strength. There’s no way around it. But that’s a good thing.

Many of us started yoga for reasons other than handstands. But as we progressed, handstands became something to work towards. As I’ve gotten stronger physically, the less scared I’ve become, which has made my handstands easier. Building the head-to-toe strength you need to support yourself while upside down is empowering. Your shoulders must be strong and stable enough to hold your body weight. Your core must be able to keep the spine straight and adjust for the small movements needed when finding balance.

The moment you find that sweet spot where balancing on your hands feels easy, is the moment you’ve found the space between strength and ease. Strength can be cultivated through training and practice. Ease is about letting go of the fear of being upside down.

We don’t spend a lot of time upside down, which is why it can be scary and intimidating when you start playing around with handstands. But being upside down is a great practice. It calms the nervous system, stimulates circulation throughout our body, and continues to make us stronger. It’s worth working towards.

Here are 5 points of performance to get into the handstand:

  • Start in downward facing dog. Walk your feet forward and lift one leg into the air.
  • Press your palms down and extend through your shoulders. Press away from the ground and lift up.
  • Draw your belly in towards the spine. Bend the leg that is on the ground and keep the lifted leg straight. Then press your foot into the ground to help you lift your hips up into a handstand.
  • Once you’re upside down, squeeze your legs and engage your glutes.
  • Keep pressing through your palms and reaching your feet towards the ceiling.

Three Workouts to Build Better Balance

The following workouts provide a few different approaches to the handstand. Some use the wall, some don’t. Although the wall is a fantastic resource to help you understand the feeling of being fully inverted, it can become a crutch.

The best way to not use the wall is to not use the wall. If you’re scared of falling, learn how to bail out of the handstand and fall safely. Use the grass or a mattress, or go to a gymnastics class.

Here is how to incorporate handstands into your weekly yoga routine. You can do these workouts at home or before your practice.

Warm Up:

  • 10 sun salutations
  • 30 second plank
  • 30 second forearm plank

Workout #1

Total time needed: About 50 minutes

5 rounds

  • 5 donkey kicks
  • 10 handstand shoulder touches (5 each side)
  • 1 wall walk up
  • 6 handstand switch kicks


  • 3 mile run at 80%

Workout #2

Total time needed: About 10 minutes

  • 10 handstand switch kicks
  • 10 donkey kicks
  • 10 handstand shoulder touches
  • 10 donkey kicks
  • 10 handstand shoulder touches
  • 10 donkey kicks
  • 10 handstand switch kicks

Workout #3

Total time needed: About 25 minutes

5 Rounds – 30 seconds on, 30 seconds off 

  • V-ups
  • Jumping lunge
  • Mountain climber

3 Rounds – Rest 2 minutes between each round

  • 30 second handstand hold at the wall
  • 20 handstand switch kicks
  • 2 wall walks
  • 30 second handstand hold at the wall

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Teaser photo courtesy of Shutterstock